Help us Challenge Abuse of the Antiquities Act
After President Biden’s announcement that he would be expanding the boundaries for the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM), BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) announced its support for a State of Utah legal challenge to the expansions of monument boundaries.
On April 15, 2021, Utah Governor Spencer Cox announced the State of Utah would be likely to sue if national monuments in the state were expanded unilaterally. The Governor’s official response to the monument expansions on October 8, 2021 included the following statement, “As Chief Justice Roberts noted earlier this year, the purpose of the Antiquities Act is to protect the ‘smallest area compatible with the care and management’ of significant archeological or historical objects to be protected. We agree and will consider all available legal options to that end.”
We are mobilizing public pressure to hold the Biden Administration accountable to the American people. But if we are to wage the strongest possible effort, we are going to need your support.
BRC’s objection to considering further change to the boundaries of the Bears Ears (BENM) and Grand Staircase-Escalante (GSENM) national monuments stem from the following:
- All federally-managed lands outside the existing monument boundaries are more than adequately protected by numerous resource protection statutes and regulations, and in some cases the relentless PR and marketing campaigns to booster support for the monuments have led to a surge in resource degradations from increased visitation levels.
- Archeological resources outside the existing monument boundaries are protected under the Archeological Resources Protection Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. These acts protect the region’s antiquities far more effectively than national monument designation under the Antiquities Act, whose provisions were found unconstitutionally vague, making them unenforceable.
- The Antiquities Act constrains the president to designating national monument size limited to the smallest area compatible with the care and management of the objects to be protected. Both the BENM and the GSENM were originally designated with areas far in excess of the statutorily limited area contemplated by the Act.
- A president’s designation of a federally-managed area as a national monument leads to myriad restrictions on public use as a result of the purely discretionary action of a single government official, with little recourse to the individual citizen or the local communities that suffer the inevitable economic and social losses. Monument designations are bad policy that result in bad government.
- Although the exercise of valid existing rights, including livestock grazing are expressly authorized, recreation, recreational access, and access to inholdings and other valid existing interests are only implied, not expressly authorized.
We are already gearing up for what will clearly be a serious undertaking to ensure that the State of Utah challenges these monument expansions in court, and success will require significant public support. We know that for many who have been living under the burden of Antiquities Act abuse it is easy to reach the point of feeling defeated. Those who promote National Monuments seem to have unlimited budgets and widespread blinkered support from the media. But now is not the time to give up.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently signaled that there is an appetite in the Supreme Court to revisit ambiguous phrases within the Antiquities Act that have resulted in abuse. Right now is the most important time to make sure we have positioned those with legal standing to challenge Antiquities Act abuse to protect their rights, their property, and their communities.
Here are the ways you can help us succeed in this monumental effort:
- Sign the petition below to encourage Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox to uphold his commitment to challenge these monument expansions in court. If you will be directly impacted by monument designations, it is crucial that you let us know. We will send regular updates on our effort and additional ways you can help us.
- Donate to support the effort. We know those who support monuments have the ability to direct billions to the effort. We know we can make a significant impact for a lot less. Please consider making a small recurring donation to help us continue to promote this effort.
- Share this message with others and help us recruit others to the cause. Because we have limited time, the faster this movement grows, the more effective we will be. We will do everything we can to spread this message, but if you help us spread the message it will reach exponentially more people.