Antiquities Act Archives


  • September 24th, 2018

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Circle Cliffs along the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah,

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Legal Director, (801)-859-1552 or steve@suwa.org

    Washington, D.C. (September 24, 2018) — This morning, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled from the bench and denied a motion to transfer the lawsuits challenging President Trump’s illegal evisceration of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments to Utah.

    The United States, supported by the state of Utah, had moved to transfer the lawsuits from federal court in Washington, D.C. to Utah. That motion was opposed by the plaintiffs, including Native American tribes, conservation groups and local businesses.

    “We are gratified by today’s decision by Judge Chutkan to keep these  significant cases in federal district court in Washington, D.C. With this venue issue behind us we look forward to tackling the merits of President Trump’s unlawful decisions to dismantle Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    SUWA is a plaintiff in two of the cases challenging Trump’s actions.

  • September 18th, 2018

    Twenty-two years ago, the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated, encompassing one of our nation’s most spectacular and scientifically important wilderness landscapes. It includes world-class fossil sites, archaeological and historical treasures, unique geologic formations, and incredible intact ecosystems—all of which the monument’s original designation was designed to safeguard for future generations.

    Of course, clouding this significant anniversary is President Trump’s illegal order last December to carve up Grand Staircase-Escalante, excluding a huge portion of its original land area from Antiquities Act protection and leaving a much smaller fragment behind.

    Even though we are challenging this move in court, the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are moving forward with management plans for the “new” almost 50% reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the 700,000 acres of land it no longer includes.

    Click here to help save Grand Staircase-Escalante! Submit your comments by November 15th!

    Circle Cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    Drafts of these new plans were just released for public comment and they are nothing short of alarming. Among a host of other shortsighted and harmful actions that would be allowed are prospects for new coal, oil, and gas development—that is, these management plans would sacrifice public lands cut from the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to future mining and drilling.

    As SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch explains, “The BLM’s proposed management plan for the lands President Trump unlawfully carved out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is not only illegal, but sets the stage for the destruction of this unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades. The BLM’s preferred alternative would open this remarkable place to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage.”

    Tell the BLM why you love Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and want to see it fully protected!

    The BLM is asking for the public to comment on these plans. Please help save Grand Staircase-Escalante from a management plan that would do nothing to quell future drilling, mining, and off-road vehicle damage on these treasured public lands.

    There are so many reasons to love the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the BLM needs to hear from you about how and why its plans must do better. Take action and comment now!

    Click here to submit your comments by November 15th!

  • February 6th, 2018

    As you know, on December 4, 2017, President Trump signed two illegal proclamations that seek to significantly reduce the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.

    Despite legal challenges filed by SUWA and partner organizations over these unlawful abuses of presidential authority, the Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with creating new land use plans that reflect the diminished boundaries in both monuments.

    Even as we remain confident that President Trump’s actions will be invalidated by the courts, it’s important that you speak up as the BLM begins to move forward with its new management plans.

    Comments on the land use plans are due April 11th, 2018.

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.

    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    (Please note: you must comment separately on each monument plan.)

    We encourage you to write personalized comments, as the agency is likely to disregard boilerplate messages. In writing your comments, please consider emphasizing the following points:

    • The proclamations reducing the monuments are, first and foremost, unlawful actions that will ultimately be overturned by a court of law. Under the Antiquities Act, the president only has the authority to create a national monument, and only Congress can revoke or reduce the boundaries of an existing monument.
    • The BLM should abstain from management planning until a court has ruled on the legality of President Trump’s action. Rapidly moving forward with this planning effort is a waste of valuable agency resources that would be better spent addressing much needed on-the-ground cultural and natural resource protection issues.

    Additional talking points are available at the links below:

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.


    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    Your comments submitted by March 19th play a critical role in protecting Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in the short term, while our legal team works daily to restore the monuments for all time.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • January 12th, 2018

    In response to the announcement today by the Bureau of Land Management that it will begin to prepare Monument Management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, which were illegally modified by President Trump on December 4, 2017, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “It is absurd for Secretary Zinke to double down on President Trump’s illegal proclamations by instructing the Bureau of Land Management to rush forward writing management plans for monuments that will inevitably be overturned by the courts.  Trump’s proclamations aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, and this effort is a waste of time and tax-payer money.  BLM should remain focused on the task at hand: protecting the remarkable cultural and natural resources in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.”

  • December 21st, 2017

    Today, the Winter Solstice takes place in the northern hemisphere, which means we will pass through the longest night of the year. What most of us forget is that this darkness is not universal. In the southern hemisphere, December 21st is the longest DAY of the year. Shift the perspective from which you gaze and you move from huddling in dark to standing in blazing light.

    For anyone who loves southern Utah’s redrock, there is good reason to experience recent weeks as a descent into darkness.

    On December 4th, President Trump flew into Salt Lake City, and with the Utah delegation crowing with glee at his side, issued an illegal order gutting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Within hours, lawsuits were filed by Native American Tribes, SUWA, and many others, creating the possibility that these monuments could be restored through the courts. Then, Utah Representatives Chris Stewart and John Curtis introduced bills that that would make permanent Trump’s drastic reductions and worse. If these bills are passed by the U.S. Congress, the lawsuits are moot.

    Without question, the future of the redrock is in extreme jeopardy.

    But in this time of darkness, it is important to remember that light persists. It is also important to realize that YOU are the ones creating it—and it is powerful.

    Take a moment and shift your gaze to these events.

    Saturday, December 2nd, on the cusp of Trump’s visit to Utah

    Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    An enormous crowd of over 6,000 people gather at the Utah State Capitol, spilling down from its expansive stone steps to sprawl across the vast sweep of lawn that extends southward. They stand shoulder to shoulder, Native and non-Native, young and old, holding signs and banners that proclaim their message: “We stand with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase! We will fight for and defend these monuments until full protection is restored.”  A host of speakers—tribal leaders, elected officials, a scientist, the 11-year-old founder of Kids Speak for Parks, SUWA’s Latinx community organizer—speak their hearts to the crowd. Virgil Johnson, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute, pretty much sums it up when he closes his speech with “We will not be moved.”

    ​​Monday, December 4th, when Trump arrives in Utah

    Copyright Terri Martin/SUWA

    Temperatures have plummeted and snow has fallen the night before. Nevertheless, thousands of people crowd the sidewalk on this Monday morning for a street protest just south of the State Capitol where Trump is speaking. They show up in down coats and snow boots, roll up in wheelchairs, braced against the bitter cold by shared passion and commitment. A group of young Native American women walk the edge of the crowd, unifying voices into chants that reverberate to the Capitol: “Defend the Sacred.  Protect our Monuments.” When it is announced that Trump has acted, people drop to one knee and thump their hands against their chests, creating the sound of a single beating heart.

    Copyright Terri Martin/SUWA


    Tuesday, December 12th, two days before a hearing in Washington, DC on Representative Stewart’s Grand Staircase Giveaway bill

    Copyright Terri Martin/SUWA

    The weather has gotten even worse. It is bone chilling cold and one of those don’t-leave-the-house days in Salt Lake City when the smoggy inversion is so thick you can’t see the mountains that grace our skyline. SUWA is joining Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, and Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners to hold a press conference debunking and denouncing Rep. Stewart’s bill ratifying Trump’s repeal of Grand Staircase. We have asked citizens (who can spare time during a work day) to come stand behind the speakers with signs and banners in a show of support.

    Again, a large crowd shows up. Standing together over 200 strong, they create a powerful sweeping panorama of bright orange “Save Grand Staircase” signs, punctuated with messages like “The President Stole Your Lands” and “Stop Stewart’s Theft.”  As the speakers proclaim their shared commitment to stop Stewart’s bill, the crowd cheers and waves signs. Two days later, at the hearing in Washington, DC, 700 letters (half from Utahns, and many of those from folks in southern Utah) are submitted into the record. These letters were generated in a matter of days when word went out locally that they were needed.

    These events are only the most dramatic examples of the blazing light created recently by activists standing up for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and America’s public lands in general. There are many more points of light across the country.

    And here is why we believe the light of citizen activism will ultimately prevail over the dark acts threatening Utah’s redrock: that light is generated by love. And as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

    Our national monuments are way more than the smallest piece of ground necessary to preserve a scientific or historic object, the stingy perspective of Trump and the Utah delegation.

    Our national monuments hold our values and tell our stories.

    They are places that preserve what our democracy can really look likefor our entire community of diverse people, plants, and animals.

    They honor our ancestors, protect our sacred sites and offer the chance to heal our history.

    They are gifts to our children that create hope for the future.

    Our national monuments were created out of vision, humility, and love. 

    When people show up to stand for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, it is an act of love—a loving devotion to these landscapes and what they stand for.

    This is the light in the political darkness, and it is brilliant. It is also way more powerful than the dark acts of Trump and the Utah delegation.

    So thank you to everyone everywhere who has showed up or spoken out in whatever way you have—coming to a rally or a protest, making a phone call, writing a letter to the editor, sending an email to your elected official.  You are the light in the darkness, and it is because of the power of your love that we will prevail.

    Copyright Jeff Foott

    Copyright Johathan Lykins

    Copyright Johathan Lykins