SALT LAKE CITY — An outdoor organization is joining the state of Utah in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over restoring Bears Ears National Monument’s original boundaries, arguing the action harms community members in the area.
Through the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Obama created Bears Ears National Monument. In 2017, President Trump shrank the memorial’s size by about 85%, from about 1.3 million acres to about 228,000. But last year, President Biden restored the monument’s original limits — 1.36 million acres.
Now Utah leaders are suing the Biden administration over the decision, arguing that both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments are too large for the federal government to manage.
The Monuments Act stipulates that areas of monuments are to be limited to the smallest area that is compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
Utah leaders are suing the Biden administration over national monuments
Coalition joins Utah lawsuit over Bears Ears
Ben Burr, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition of Idaho, meets with Inside Sources moderator Boyd Matheson to discuss his National Review article. He discusses the state’s lawsuit and why he believes the government’s actions are harming Utah residents.
“So you can see you’ve got four different presidents looking at this area of Utah and none of them can agree on what the right size for a national monument is,” Burr said. “This is at the heart of the legal challenge to Utah’s Biden evictions and also a companion lawsuit my organization filed yesterday to also challenge that designation as a national monument.”
“Ben, in the lawsuit you filed . . . They also have a rancher and a miner and members of the Utah Native American community. . . What are you saying?” Boyd asked.
“We have ranchers who see that once a national monument has been declared, it’s almost impossible to manage their grazing lands,” Burr said. “We have a miner in our complaint and he has already suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. . . At this point with the Biden statement, they probably won’t be able to pursue their mining claims, which is a property right.”
Burr said members of the Native American community were included in his coalition’s complaint about the Biden monument’s designation.
“Interestingly, the Obama proclamation allowed Native Americans to continue using the land traditionally and harvesting materials from the land,” he said. “The Biden Proclamation didn’t keep that exclusion, so they’re actually being directly harmed.”
Public lands and nature
Burr said the Blue Ribbon Coalition is focused on outdoor recreation and access to public lands.
“What we’re finding are areas that were once prime, primitive, backcountry destinations that are now turning into more of the hard-nosed, heavily traveled places you’d see in a national park,” he said. “So it really ruins the outdoor recreational experience in those areas.”
Boyd noted the need to balance these types of proclamations between enjoying the outdoors and protecting and preserving irreplaceable national treasures.
“It’s not about putting an oil rig under Delicate Arch,” he said. “Often it harms the Native Americans who have used this land for generations, or the ranchers. Only this healthy balance of ours can protect and preserve all the things that the Antiquities Act says we should – and still be able to act responsibly and make people experience it all. Getting to that conversation, I think, is the really crucial part of it.
Indigenous leaders react to restoration of Bears Ears borders
Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard on weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.