Utah jumps into lawsuits over President Trump shrinking Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments

Posted at 10:16 AM, Jan 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-12 22:44:25-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge is allowing the state of Utah and San Juan, Garfield and Kane counties to intervene in a series of lawsuits challenging President Trump’s decision to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

In a ruling handed down in Washington D.C. on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan granted the state and the counties’ motions. She also agreed to allow the Utah Farm Bureau to intervene as well. They are all siding with the president who issued an executive order to shrink the monuments during a ceremony in Utah in December 2017. President Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah in 2016.

Environmental and tribal groups have filed numerous lawsuits seeking to undo President Trump’s declarations. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes sought to intervene to preserve state interests in the ongoing litigation over the monuments.

In her ruling, Judge Chutkan said the state benefits from President Trump’s decision.

“The Bears Ears National Monument is located entirely within Utah, and the State’s interest in generating revenue and maintaining rights-of-way on roads crossing federal public lands, among other things, directly relates to the property at issue. If Plaintiffs are successful on the merits, the State of Utah’s ability to provide road access to the public and exploit the property at issue for revenue generating purposes through multiple avenues may be impaired. And, while Defendants and the State of Utah contend that President Trump’s proclamation is a valid exercise of presidential power, Defendants cannot adequately represent the State of Utah’s unique interests,” she wrote in an order in the Bears Ears litigation.

In contrast to the state’s motion to intervene, some local elected officials including Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Boulder Mayor Steve Cox, Bluff Mayor Ann Leppannen and council members from Alta, Moab, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and Summit County also signed a “friend of the court” brief supporting preserving the monuments.

Read the judge’s ruling here (refresh the page if it doesn’t immediately load):