Good News: Court Dismisses Lawsuits Challenging Restored National Monuments!

Aug 14th, 2023 Written by Steve Bloch

This past Friday afternoon, a Federal District Court judge dismissed the lawsuits brought by the State of Utah, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and others challenging President Biden’s restoration of the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments! This is a moment well worth celebrating.

In August 2022, the State of Utah, along with Garfield and Kane Counties, filed a lawsuit challenging President Biden’s lawful use of the Antiquities Act to restore the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in October 2021. The Blue Ribbon Coalition and several individuals filed a separate lawsuit which also challenged restoration of the monuments. Soon afterward, SUWA and a coalition of conservation organizations intervened in these lawsuits on behalf of the U.S. to defend the monuments; five sovereign Tribal Nations also intervened on behalf of the U.S. to defend Bears Ears National Monument.

After the state filed its lawsuit, SUWA Executive Director Scott Groene summarized the situation this way: “From Governor Cox on down, the continued anti-environment agenda of Utah politicians makes the Utah political delegation the most hostile to America’s public lands of any state. At a time when climate change is creating drought and extreme weather events in Utah, Utah’s politicians are exacerbating the harm by trying to upend the very public land protections that play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change.”

Friday’s decision is a strong rebuke to that anti-environment agenda. In a statement that was picked up by the Associated Press, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, and other news outlets, I said “Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are two of the most significant, intact, and extraordinary public landscapes in America—landscapes that will remain protected after today’s dismissal of these lawsuits. We are thrilled with today’s decision, which aligns with more than 100 years of similar court rulings that have rejected every challenge to Presidential authority under the Antiquities Act to protect cultural, scientific, ecological, and paleontological resources on public lands.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. © Jack Dykinga

We know the fight to protect Utah’s national monuments is not over—Governor Spencer Cox announced that the state will begin the appeal process to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals immediately—but Friday’s decision is very good news, and our national monuments remain protected. For 40 years, politicians have come and gone, but Utah’s wild places remain, and SUWA remains resolute in our dedication to protecting them.

Our work to defend Utah’s wild public lands is possible only because of your support. I hope you’ll consider joining us at our 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sept. 9th in Salt Lake City (click here to purchase tickets!) or making a donation if you can’t attend.

Thank you for your support!