SUWA and its conservation partners have filed two lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s unlawful decision to dismantle both the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. In addition to the suits our conservation coalition has brought, five Native American Tribes and a coalition of other organizations and businesses have also sued Trump in two separate cases over Bears Ears. Another group of plaintiffs, including the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, has sued Trump over his gutting of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Trump’s actions are truly unprecedented in the scope of their attack on these treasured federal public lands. Trump would cut Grand Staircase-Escalante nearly in half (from 1.9 million acres to just over 1 million acres) and Bears Ears by more than 80 percent (from 1.3 million acres to just over 200,000 acres). He has laughably claimed that these vastly reduced boundaries adequately protect the objects and resources Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama identified in their original proclamations (or that the resources aren’t even worth protecting). His actions have drawn widespread and richly deserved condemnation across the country.

Given that our lawsuits challenge actions Trump has taken on the recommendations of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, we chose to take the fight to his doorstep. We filed the cases in federal district court in Washington, DC, just down the street from the White House and the Interior Department. In response, the Justice Department filed a motion asking that the cases be transferred from DC to the federal district court in Utah.

The Justice Department argues principally that these are local cases that implicate primarily local interests and thus should be decided in Utah. This motion fundamentally misconstrues what the cases are about: challenging decisions made by the President of the United States to assault nationally significant federal public lands and resources. Furthermore, the Tribes are sovereign nations with homelands in more than one state. They have equally strong and separate arguments as to why Washington, DC is precisely the right place for these cases to be decided. We expect a decision shortly.

Meanwhile, we are watching closely for any mischief on the lands that Trump excluded from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears. This includes the filing of new mining claims (there haven’t been many—yet), county road “maintenance,” and rogue ATV use. See our Monument Watch sidebar (below) to learn how you can help us keep eyes on the ground.

—Steve Bloch

(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, spring 2018 issue)

Take Action: Help Protect Your Monuments from Trump

When Trump gutted Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, he removed protections from over two million acres of land. In response, SUWA has launched “Monument Watch,” an eyes-on-the-ground campaign to identify and fight any illegal activity. But we need your help to keep the monuments safe!

When you visit lands within the monuments’ original boundaries, please watch for any action that may disturb, or is disturbing, the natural setting or archaeological sites. If you live in southern Utah, listen and look for any evidence that such an action is being planned or initiated.

With the help of SUWA members and supporters, we can ensure that no destructive projects take place within either monument—as originally proclaimed—until we win our lawsuits and restore the integrity of these landscapes. If you’re in the area, please help us monitor on-the-ground conditions. You can submit information via email or through a mobile app the SUWA team has developed. For more information, please visit: