Environmental Protection

RELEASE: Members of Congress to Court: President Trump Can’t Cut National Monuments

CAC President Elizabeth Wydra: “Just because President Trump is willing to do whatever his mining supporters want doesn’t make such a power grab lawful.”

WASHINGTON, DC – Members of Congress, led by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)—and including Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi—this week signed an amici curiae brief filed by Constitutional Accountability Center explaining why President Donald Trump has no authority under the Antiquities Act to diminish the sizes of national monuments, specifically Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, per proclamations he issued in December 2017.

Read the brief here.

“The Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to determine the fate of federal lands and other property belonging to the United States, and only Congress can delegate any of that power to the President,” said CAC President Elizabeth Wydra. “More than 100 years ago, Congress gave presidents the power to establish national monuments. It did not give them power to diminish those monuments.

“Just because President Trump is willing to do whatever his mining supporters want doesn’t make such a power grab lawful,” Wydra said. “We hope the court agrees.”



CAC’s brief on behalf of Members of Congress in Hopi Tribe v. Trump; Wilderness Society v. Trump, filed November 19, 2018: https://www.theusconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Wilderness-Society-Brief-FINAL.docx.pdf

“What Trump’s Shrinking of National Monuments Actually Means,” National Geographic, December 4, 2017 (updated February 2, 2018): https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/trump-shrinks-bears-ears-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monuments/

“Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument,” Washington Post, December 8, 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/uranium-firm-urged-trump-officials-to-shrink-bears-ears-national-monument/2017/12/08/2eea39b6-dc31-11e7-b1a8-62589434a581_story.html

Bears Ears was designated by President Obama in December 2016 and Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated by President Clinton in September 1996.

Of Bears Ears, President Barack Obama said that its “[a]bundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record that is important to us all, but most notably the land is profoundly sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe.”

Of Grand Staircase-Escalante, President Bill Clinton said, “On this site, on this remarkable site, God’s handiwork is everywhere in the natural beauty of the Escalante Canyons and in the Kaiparowits Plateau, in the rock formations that show layer by layer billions of years of geology, in the fossil record of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, in the remains of ancient American civilizations like the Anacosi Indians… While the Grand Staircase-Escalante will be open for many activities, I am concerned about a large coal mine proposed for the area. Mining jobs are good jobs, and mining is important to our national economy and to our national security. But we can’t have mines everywhere, and we shouldn’t have mines that threaten our national treasures.”


Now in our tenth year, Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit the new CAC website at www.theusconstitution.org.


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