We have cleared an important hurdle in our lawsuits challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack on the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments. Recall that last December, the same day that Trump flew to Utah to announce his evisceration of the monuments, several lawsuits were filed in federal district court in Washington, DC challenging these unprecedented attacks.

The Department of Justice, with the state’s full support, moved to transfer the cases from federal court in Washington to Utah. All the plaintiffs opposed the motion, including SUWA and its conservation partners, Native American tribes, and several businesses.

In late September, federal district court judge Tanya Chutkan denied the motion to transfer, noting:

“. . . where cases involve substantial national implications, as these cases do, they cannot be considered the type of purely localized controversy that would warrant transfer to a local district court. The national implications of these cases is abundantly clear. . . . given the natural and scientific resources, as well as cultural prehistoric and historic values of the monuments, the disposition of this case affects not only residents of Utah but all Americans.”

The United States promptly filed a motion asking the court to dismiss our lawsuits under a variety of theories. Predictably, one was the specious argument that the Antiquities Act’s grant of presidential authority to establish national monuments comes part and parcel with the power to destroy or largely eliminate them. All the plaintiffs have opposed those motions. We expect a ruling in the coming months though there is no set schedule.

Meanwhile, and per the judge’s order, the parties have worked out an arrangement by which the United States will provide the plaintiffs with advance notice about such things as mining proposals and other surface disturbing activities inside the original monument boundaries. This will make sure that we can take the steps necessary to protect these places before any damage occurs.

The bottom line: while Trump’s orders dismantling the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears monuments took only the stroke of a pen, it may take years of hard work to restore them to their full glory. With your continued support, we’re in it for the long haul.

Valley of the Gods, formerly protected as part of Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Judith Zimmerman