clear
Monday December 11th, 2017 12:19PM

Lawsuits address whether presidents can modify monuments

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A flurry of lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump's decision to chop up two large national monuments in Utah could finally bring an answer to the much-debated question of whether presidents have the legal authority to undo or change monuments created by past presidents.

Until that question is answered months or years from now, the fate of the contested lands in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will remain unresolved.

Proclamations signed Monday by the president allow lands no longer protected as a national monument to be opened up in 60 days to mining, but conservation and tribal groups will likely try to keep that from happening.

Mark Squillace, professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said he doubts the federal government would permit mining so quickly after Trump's announcement because it would be bad politics, especially as the legal battle mushrooms.

Outdoor retail giant Patagonia joined the lawsuits Wednesday, filing one on behalf of several other organizations to block Trump's reductions to Bears Ears. The California-based company said in the lawsuit that Trump's proclamation shrinking the monument by 85 percent exceeds the president's authority and strips much-needed protections from sacred tribal lands.

Patagonia also replaced its usual home page with a stark message, "The President Stole Your Land."

The post drew a strong rebuke from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke who called it "nefarious, false and a lie."

Three lawsuits already had been filed involving Utah's monuments. And more are expected — especially if Trump follows Zinke's recommendations to shrink two other monuments — Gold Butte in Nevada and Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon.

Supporters of Trump's move welcomed the fight, saying it will answer longstanding questions about presidential power involving the protection of land.

"Hopefully, we can have some closure on what the president can and cannot do," said Mike Noel, a Republican state representative in Utah who was on stage with the president during his proclamation signing in Salt Lake City.

Past presidents have trimmed national monuments and redrawn their boundaries 18 times, according to the National Park Service.

Legal experts disagree on whether the 1906 Antiquities Act — allowing presidents to create a monument — also lets them reduce one.

The question has never been settled in court, but conservation and paleontology groups and Native American tribes launching lawsuits are preparing to argue that Trump doesn't have that authority and his move jeopardizes a wealth of Native American artifacts, dinosaur fossils and rugged spaces.

"Gee whiz, it sounds like there are going to be a lot of attorneys making a whole lot of money," quipped Noel. "For every organization, there's a lunch ticket for a group of attorneys to exist."

Noel plans to intervene himself, filing a court brief to show support for the president's actions.

Donald Kochan, a professor of natural resources, property and administrative law at Chapman University in Orange, California, believes Trump's action is likely legal and the separate lawsuits allow each group to show supporters they're speaking up.

Squillace said the lawsuits will likely be merged into one case for each monument.

He thinks a court will try to focus on the overall question of whether Trump has the authority to reduce the monuments — something Squillace doesn't think the president has the legal authority to do.

While the legal battles play out, Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has introduced a bill that would prevent presidents from designating monuments larger than 85,000 acres and give states and local officials the power to veto a monument larger than 10,000 acres.

Bishop's bill is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

___

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Lawsuits address whether presidents can modify monuments
A flurry of lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump's decision to chop up two large national monuments in Utah could finally bring an answer to the much-debated question of whether presidents have the legal authority to undo or change monuments
8:00PM ( 15 minutes ago )
As Franken's support collapses, Democrats expect resignation
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken appears on the verge of resigning after fellow Democrats led by female senators abandoned him over mounting allegations of sexual misconduct
7:58PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Trump move on Jerusalem highlights Arab divisions
Muslims across the Middle East are warning of disastrous consequences after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but in a region more divided than ever, many ask what leaders can do beyond the vehement rhetoric
7:56PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Congress seems on track to avert weekend government shutdown
Congress seems on track to approving legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown over the weekend
7:16PM ( 59 minutes ago )
Gene therapy shows promise against blood-clotting disease
A study fuels hope that gene therapy can give long-lasting help and perhaps even cure the blood clotting disease called hemophilia
7:13PM ( 1 hour ago )
Bel-Air wildfire joins the siege across Southern California
A wildfire has erupted in Los Angeles' exclusive Bel-Air section as one corner of Southern California after another finds itself under siege from an outbreak of wind-whipped blazes
6:57PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
In awkward situation, Kansas seems to have 2 governors
Kansas has an awkward situation with the outgoing governor awaiting Senate confirmation for a new post in the Trump administration
6:57PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: White House encourages short-term spending fix
The White House is encouraging Congress to pass a temporary spending measure to keep the government funded through December 22
6:45PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Australia concerned by US shift to Jerusalem
Australia's foreign minister says she is concerned that the U.S. decision to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem will increase tensions with the Palestinians
6:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Schumer adds to calls for Franken resignation
The top Senate Democrat says Sen. Al Franken should resign as allegations of sexual misconduct against the Minnesota lawmaker multiply
5:20PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: GOP-led House passes NRA-backed gun bill
The House has approved a Republican bill making it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines
4:47PM ( 3 hours ago )
Trump says government shutdown possible, blames Democrats
President Donald Trump is warning that a government shutdown is possible this weekend because Democrats are demanding to have "illegal immigrants pouring into our country."
4:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
As Franken's support collapses, Democrats expect resignation
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken appears on the verge of resigning after fellow Democrats led by female senators abandoned him over mounting allegations of sexual misconduct
7:58PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Trump move on Jerusalem highlights Arab divisions
Muslims across the Middle East are warning of disastrous consequences after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but in a region more divided than ever, many ask what leaders can do beyond the vehement rhetoric
7:56PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Son of slain black man wants life in prison for ex-officer
The youngest son of a black motorist who was shot to death by a white former police officer has asked a judge to sentence the ex-cop to life in prison
7:55PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Democrat: Trump Jr. avoids questions about talks with father
Donald Trump Jr. refused to tell lawmakers about conversations he had with his father regarding a controversial 2016 Trump Tower meeting after emails detailing the meeting had become public
7:55PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Jones seeking support of women in Alabama Senate race
Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones is siding with women making sexual misconduct claims against both Democrats and Republicans
7:53PM ( 22 minutes ago )