Challenge to Antiquities Act Threatens Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Other Cherished Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legal challenges to the Antiquities Act could reverse more than a century of conservation measures that protect wildlife and safeguard Indigenous and historic sites across the nation, the National Wildlife Federation and four of its Western affiliates argued in an amicus brief supporting the Biden Administration and a coalition of Tribal Nations. The state of Utah and others filed a lawsuit against the administration following the designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah. 

“The Antiquities Act was signed into law and first utilized by President Theodore Roosevelt to conserve important geological features, protect wildlife and plant habitat, and expand hunting and other recreational opportunities for Americans to connect with nature,” said Brett Prettyman, executive director of the Utah Wildlife Federation. “The two Utah monuments provide important habitat for desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, gray foxes, and numerous bird species. Lawsuits to negate the monuments undermine the long history of conserving our nation’s most important lands and our wildlife heritage.” 

“For more than 115 years, nearly every president from both political parties has used the Antiquities Act to conserve lands with important wildlife, cultural, and historical value, such as Bears Ears National Monument, which has deep cultural and spiritual significance to Indigenous peoples, including the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni, among others,” said Camilla Simon, executive director of Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO). “If these lawsuits are successful, it would harm more than just Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. It is a direct assault on all national monuments and more than a century of conservation.” 

The amicus brief was filed on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the Utah Wildlife Federation. It argued that “For more than a century, presidents have created national monuments to protect important objects such as wildlife, plants, and habitat. For nearly as long, courts have found that such protections are a proper exercise of presidential discretion under the Antiquities Act, and Congress has declined to restrict this discretion. President Biden acted consistent with judicial precedent and longstanding practice when establishing the Monuments.”



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