09/21/2017 - Regulatory Tracker

National Monuments

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Why it Matters

Our national monuments protect historic landmarks, prehistoric structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest. They are under threat of being eliminated, reduced in size, or developed for logging and mineral or energy extraction.

On Dec. 4, 2017, former President Trump announced he was reducing Bears Ears National Monument area by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half. An internal report from Interior Secretary Zinke to former President Trump later revealed these changes were designed to allow for more extractive uses including logging, mining, and hunting.

For monument-specific timelines for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Cascade-Siskiyou scroll to the bottom. For an analysis of litigation challenging the expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, read our blog post: Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Litigation May Cause Circuit Split.

For a full list of the Trump Administration’s actions by monument, click here.

Current Status

President Biden prioritized both monuments in an Executive Order issued on Jan. 20, 2021, establishing a policy to “restore and expand our national treasures and monuments,” and specifically recommending the Secretary of the Interior to determine whether to restore the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to their pre-January 20, 2017 boundaries within 60 days. On Oct. 9, 2021, Biden signed a series of executive orders restoring the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. On June 18, 2022, the administration signed a cooperative management agreement for Bears Ears with five tribes that have inhabited land surrounding the monument, the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni.

History
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June 8, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Antiquity Act. This revolutionary act authorizes the president to protect public lands without having to go through Congress. Since then, presidents of both parties have established 117 national monuments in 31 states, Washington, DC, and several territories.

Trump Administration (including monument-specific timelines)
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Feb. 6, 2017 An environmental law firm submits a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking “‘final legal advice’ relating to the president’s authority to designate, withdraw, expand, or modify national monuments under the Antiquities Act.”

April 26, 2017 President Trump signs Executive Order 13792, directing the Secretary of the Interior to review all National Monuments designated or expanded since January 1, 1996 under the Antiquities Act that are at least 100,000 acres or were made “without adequate public outreach and coordination.”

May 11, 2017 Department of Interior (DOI) asks for public comment on whether to revise twenty-seven national monuments (including five marine monuments).  Comments on Bears Ears National Monument are due within 15 days while comments on other areas may be submitted until July 10, 2017. Public comments total nearly three million, and are overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining current borders and protections. Interior Secretary Zinke dismisses them as a “well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations.” 21 onshore monuments are listed for review because they are at least 100,000 acres, and one – Katahdin Woods, in Maine – is called out to “determine whether the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

Aug. 16, 2017 Top officials at the Department of the Interior direct the Park Service deputy director to rescind Order #100. Issued on Dec. 20, 2016, the order emphasized decision-making based on the “best available sound science and scholarship” and adopted the “precautionary principle” as a guiding strategy for resource management. The order also recognized climate change as an important background factor for NPS to consider in its resource management decisions. NPS does not provide a rationale for rescinding the order.

Aug. 24, 2017 Secretary Zinke submits his final recommendations for closing or shrinking monuments to the White House. The report is not made public, prompting environmental groups to later submit multiple FOIA requests for the report and related documents.

Oct. 12, 2017 An environmental law firm sues DOJ for failing to respond to its FOIA request from February 6, 2017.

Nov. 2, 2017 Environmental groups sue DOI for failure to respond to multiple FOIA requests (dated from March 3, 2017 – September 1, 2017) relating to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Zinke’s August 24, 2017 report.

Dec. 4, 2017 President Trump announces that he is reducing Bears Ears National Monument area by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half. That same day, lawsuits are filed by Earthjustice, on behalf of eight conservation organizations, and by a coalition of five native American tribes in the DC District Court, stating the president’s proclamation is unlawful. Cases 1:17-cv-02587 and 1:17-cv-02590.

Dec. 5, 2017 Interior Secretary Zinke’s report to President Trump on monument and sanctuary recommendations, which was issued in August 2017, is finally made public. His recommendations include changing the management plans to, and boundaries of, several monuments to allow for more extractive uses (such as logging, mining, and hunting). Zinke also recommends creating new monuments in Kentucky, Montana, and Mississippi.

Secretary Zinke recommended changes to the following monuments’ management plans:

  • Cascade-Siskiyou
  • Gold Butte
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
  • Rio Grande del Norte

Monument-Specific Timelines

Bears Ears, Utah

June 12, 2017 Interior Secretary Zinke proposes significantly scaling back the Bears Ear monument. Since then, environmental groups have submitted multiple FOIAs regarding the proposed changes.

Dec. 4, 2017 President Trump announces he is reducing Bears Ears National Monument area by 85%. A coalition of sovereign tribes has filed a lawsuit in the DC District Court, calling this action unlawful. A second coalition including outdoor retailer Patagonia also sues. Cases: Hopi Tribe v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02590 (D.D.C.) and Utah Diné Bikéyah v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02605 (D.D.C.).

Jan. 30, 2018 The D.C. District Court consolidates the Bears Ears lawsuits into one case. Hopi Tribe v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02590 (D.D.C.). BLM opens a public comment period for development of management plans for areas of Bears Ears through April 11, 2018. It also holds a series of public meetings on the plans.

Feb. 2, 2018 Land that President Trump removes from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments is opened to new mining claims.

Aug. 15, 2018 BLM releases draft management plans and a draft environmental impact statement for Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the lands now called Kanab-Escalante Planning Area that were part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument before President Trump removed them. A notice of availability is published in the Federal Register on Aug. 17, 2018. The agency accepts comments through Nov. 15, 2018 for the Bears Ears plan.

Oct. 5, 2018 The state of Utah officially moves to join a lawsuit challenging the establishment of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Utah seeks to join the Trump administration in arguing for a reduction in the size of the monuments. Utah cited economic impacts as well as “sovereign interests” in its decision to join the lawsuit.

Jan. 14, 2019 The state of Utah as well as the Utah and American Farm Bureaus joined multiple lawsuits in support of the Trump administration’s decision to shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

July 26, 2019 BLM releases the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Bears Ears.

April 16, 2019 San Juan County, Utah files a motion withdrawing from a suit defending the decision to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.

Sept. 30, 2019 The US District Court for the District of Columbia denies the government’s motion to dismiss Hopi Tribe v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02590 (D.D.C.).

Feb. 6, 2020 The Dept. of the Interior releases a new RMP for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, a Monument Management Plan (MMP) for Bears Ears National Monument, and an RMP for public lands that were previously a part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Kanab-Escalante Planning Area). The plans open up much of the Monuments to grazing, allow for increased logging in both monuments, and permit coal and other mineral mining in areas the Trump administration carved out of the monuments in 2017.

 

Cascade-Siskiyou, Oregon

Aug. 24, 2017 Interior Secretary Zinke proposes scaling back Cascade-Siskiyou, and revising the management plan, specifically mentioning the “impacts on commercial timber production.”

April 2, 2019 A magistrate judge for the US District Court for the District of Oregon recommends dismissing an industry challenge to Pres. Obama’s 2017 expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The magistrate found that President Obama acted within his authority under the Antiquities Act to expand the monument, and was not precluded from doing so by the O&C Act which also applies to the lands in question.The magistrate’s report and recommendations have been referred to the district judge.

Sep. 5, 2019 the US District Court for the District of Oregon adopts the magistrate judge’s April report holding that the President had the legal authority to expand the monument.  Murphy Company v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-00285-CL (D. Or.).

Nov. 4, 2019 Industry appeals Murphy Company v. Trump to the 9th Circuit. Murphy Company v. Trump, No. 19-35921 (9th Cir.)

Nov. 22, 2019 the US District Court for the District of Columbia rules that the Presidential Proclamation expanding Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument unlawfully violates a 1937 statute that regulates timber harvest on federal land in Western Oregon (the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act of 1937). American Forest Resource Council v. Hammond, No. 16-1599 (D.D.C.).

Jan. 24, 2020 The Dept. of the Interior and a coalition of environmental groups file separate notices of appeal at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Both groups seek to overturn a November 2019 ruling saying that the Obama administration’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument violated the 1938 O&C Act. Association of O&C Counties v. Donald Trump, No. 20-5011 (D.C. Cir.); American Forest Resource Council v. United States of America, No. 20-5008 (D.C. Cir.).

 

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah

June 23, 2017 An environmental group submits a FOIA for information on the monument.

Aug. 24, 2017 Interior Secretary Zinke proposes scaling back Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Dec. 4, 2017 President Trump announces he is cutting Grand Staircase-Escalante by almost half. Among others, a coalition of conservation groups files a lawsuit in the DC District Court, calling this action unlawful. Wilderness Society v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02587 (D.D.C).

Jan. 30, 2018 The DC District Court consolidates the Grand Staircase-Escalante lawsuits into one case. BLM opens a public comment period for development of management plans for areas of Grand Staircase-Escalante through April 13, 2018. It also holds a series of public meetings on the plans.

Feb. 2, 2018 Land that President Trump removed from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments is opened to new mining claims.

Aug. 15, 2018 BLM releases draft management plans for Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the lands now called Kanab-Escalante Planning Area that were part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument before President Trump removed them. A notice of availability is published in the Federal Register on Aug. 17, 2018. The agency is accepting comments through Nov. 15, 2018 for the Bears Ears plan and through Nov. 30, 2018 for Grand Staircase-Escalante and Kanab-Escalante.

Oct. 5, 2018 The state of Utah officially moves to join a lawsuit challenging the establishment of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Utah seeks to join the Trump administration in arguing for a reduction in the size of the monuments. Utah cited economic impacts as well as “sovereign interests” in its decision to join the lawsuit.

Jan. 14, 2019 The state of Utah as well as the Utah and American Farm Bureaus joins multiple lawsuits in support of the Trump administration’s decision to shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

April 17, 2019  Department of Justice files a response to amici briefs reiterating its stance that President Trump is acting within his authority granted under the Antiquities Act to shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Aug. 23, 2019 BLM releases the final environmental impact statement for the reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument in Utah. The proposal includes opening more area to energy development. On Oct. 17, 2019 BLM modifies the final plan to respond to additional public comments regarding cultural resources, livestock grazing, and consideration of alternative RMPs.

Sept. 30, 2019 The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denies the government’s motion to dismiss Wilderness Society v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02587 (D.D.C).

Feb. 6, 2020 The Dept. of the Interior releases a new RMP for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, a Monument Management Plan (MMP) for Bears Ears National Monument, and an RMP for public lands that were previously a part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Kanab-Escalante Planning Area). The plans open up much of the Monuments to grazing, allow for increased logging in both monuments, and permit coal and other mineral mining in areas the Trump administration carved out of the monuments in 2017.

Biden Administration
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Jan. 20, 2021 President Biden issues an Executive Order establishing a policy to “restore and expand our national treasures and monuments,” and specifically recommending the Secretary of the Interior to determine whether to restore the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to their pre-January 20, 2017 boundaries within 60 days.

March 8, 2021 The US District Court for the District of Columbia stays litigation over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Hope Tribe v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02590 (D.D.C.); Wilderness Society v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-02587 (D.D.C.).

March 17, 2021 Interior Secretary Haaland delays recommendations to President Biden on restoring the boundaries and conditions of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monuments in order to meet in-person with stakeholders in Utah. President Biden’s Jan. 20 EO on public health and the environment ordered the Secretary to review these boundaries within 60 days.

April 12, 2021 Dozens of House and Senate Democratic lawmakers send a letter to President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland supporting a proposal by Native American Tribes to expand Bears Ears National Monument to 1.9 million acres, and restore more than 2 million acres of public lands to both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Oct. 9, 2021 President Biden signs a series of executive orders restoring the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The orders do not address whether President Trump’s reduction of those boundaires was a valid exercise of authority under the Antiquities Act.

Dec. 2021 DOI and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) begin work on a memorandum of understanding to exchange 135,000 acres of state-owned land inside the Bears Ears National Monument’s new boundaries. As part of President Biden’s October Proclamation resetting the monument’s boundaries, the President instructed Secretary Haaland to “explore” an exchange of state in-holdings “for land of approximately equal value managed by the BLM outside of the boundary of the monument.” At the same time, Utah Governor Spencer Cox and state Attorney General Sean Reyes have said they will file suit challenging the monument’s creation in 2016 as a violation of the Antiquities Act.

May 17, 2022 The Utah Legislative Management Committee approve a land swap involving Bears Ears National Monument. The Utah School Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) plans to trade 161,000 acres of land it holds inside the monument’s boundaries in exchange for 164,000 acres of federal land across the state. A similar SITLA exchange took place when President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument.

June 18, 2022 The Biden administration reaches an agreement to give five Native American tribes more day-to-day management over Bears Ears National Monument. The cooperative agreement between Dept. of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and five tribes that have inhabited land surrounding the monument, the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni, lays out cooperative management of the monument. It states, “The landscape has been continually used by members of Tribal Nations since time immemorial to heal, practice their spirituality, pray, rejuvenate, and connect with their history. This agreement will serve, in part, to facilitate communication and understanding between the Tribal Nations and the Federal land managers to better protect ceremonial and traditional activities within the monument, as well as to preserve and integrate traditional knowledge of the region and apply that knowledge to inform Federal land management decisions.”