The American Farm Bureau Federation, along with the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, the state of Utah and San Juan County (Utah), last week filed a brief in support of President Donald Trump’s December 2017 proclamations decreasing the size of the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the brief backs the federal government’s request to dismiss a series of consolidated cases filed against President Trump’s declarations.
The brief explains how changes made by the proclamations will protect ranchers’ livelihoods by enhancing their ability to graze livestock in and around the monuments. “Plaintiffs’ claims, if granted, would significantly jeopardize the Farm Bureaus’ members who ranch in the area under the authority of multiple federal laws and regulations, just as their ancestors have done for generations over the last 150 years,” the groups wrote.
They emphasized that, contrary to the plaintiffs’ assertions, President Trump was authorized to take such action under the Antiquities Act and that presidents before him had made similar modifications to national monuments on at least 18 separate occasions.
“The Act does not contain any limitations to a President’s ability to modify the area of land reserved for an existing monument should it be determined that the area reserved is not consistent with the Antiquities Act’s limited reservation authority.”
Indeed, there is no legal precedent for limiting Trump’s authority to make such modifications. Instead, the Supreme Court, federal circuit courts and federal district courts have uniformly supported broad presidential authority under the Antiquities Act, the groups wrote in the brief.
Nor has Congress ever passed a law in response to a presidential declaration modifying a national monument. In fact, the two times in which Congress has responded to a national monument proclamation both related to the establishment of national monuments, not modifications to already established monuments.
In addition to being legally sound and within the authority granted by the Antiquities Act, the President’s proclamations properly balance competing interests regarding the designation and management of public lands within Utah, the groups said.
The reduction of the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument “is a step toward rectifying the abuses of the Antiquities Act that occurred when each monument was created over the objection and without the input of Utah’s elected representatives.”