Yes, Presidents Can Reduce National Monuments’ Size

Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments take up enough Utah land to fit more than 73 Districts of Columbia.  

Yesterday, MSLF filed a brief on behalf of two Utah counties near Grand Staircase-Escalante. In it, MSLF joined with several local individuals and sporting organizations represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, rural farmers, and the State of Utah again supporting the federal government’s position in Wilderness Society v. Trump that it lawfully reduced the size of two Utah national monuments.  

Several environmentalist groups (including The Wilderness Society) sued the Trump administration claiming the president had no authority to change the amount of land designated at Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. 

But that is wrong.

Changing the size of such monuments has been a common practice of presidents since passage of the Antiquities Act — the law giving presidents authority to declare monuments in the first place — in 1906. MSLF attorneys noted that in an earlier brief filed in the case on behalf of the State of Utah, Utah farmers and three Utah counties. 

President Trump’s 2017 decision to reduce their size, for the sake of local economies, was lawful. Under the Antiquities Act presidents are supposed to designate only the smallest amount of land necessary for protecting historic or unique sites, but Obama and Clinton’s Utah designations were immense. 

The original sizes of the combined national monument land grabs totaled more than 3.2 million acres – or enough to house the entire District of Columbia 73 times over.  

In addition to creating monuments so large they exceeded the scope of executive authority given for the creation of national monuments, Obama and Clinton also ignored the state’s input when creating them.  

A huge amount of Utah’s land is owned and managed by the federal government including five national parks, and several other national monuments. Utah has argued for making Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument smaller and either rescinding national monument status from Bears Ears or reducing its size.  

Why? Because such national monuments place severe burdens on the regions they are in as well as limitations on land use and development that impair local economies. A Utah public lands official told Congress that the designations harm rural economies and ways of life, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. 

Leaders from rural Utah who joined MSLF’s lawsuit intervening in Wilderness Society v. Trump also say their region has been economically harmed by the creation and expansion of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  

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Wilderness Society v. Trump

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