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Tribal reactions, and Monument’s Legal Challenges

Posted at 7:55 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-05 09:01:13-05

SALT LAKE CITY - The moment President Trump signed a proclamation shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, the lawsuits started to line up.

“We have a United State Constitution and it sets forth a separation of powers and it reserves to the Congress authority over the property of the United States,” said Ethel Branch, Attorney General for the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation is joining the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Mountain Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe in a suit to keep the monument borders as they were designated by President’s Obama and Clinton.

"Even when the law is clear on our side, we don't always prevail because the courts step outside of their boundaries and make policy based judgment,” said Branch.

Legal scholars are not sure which way the courts will go on the issue of Presidential authority, when it comes to modifying National Monuments.

"We don't have any judicial precedent as to whether or not the President has this authority. The weight of opinion from legal scholars at this point, is that the President may not have this legal authority,” said Bob Keiter, the Wallace Stegner Professor of Law at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney Law School.

Late Monday night, Earthjustice, an environmental non-profit group, filed the fire lawsuit challenging the President’s power.

"It would not surprise me to see ultimately, an appeal to the United States Supreme Court,” said Keiter.

President Trump’s proclamations regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments include a sixty day grace period for oil and gas leasing or mining activities on the land. Once the sixty day period is over, unless changed by the courts, the land will be subject to BLM and/or U.S. Forest Service control and managed under their respective multiple use rules.