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Limited and Ethical Government Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the Nation's leading legal centers fighting to ensure that the federal government remains a limited government and a government of laws and not men and women. MSLF recognizes that the Constitution was written, not to protect the various units or levels of government, but to preserve the liberty of the American people. MSLF is committed to ensuring that they continue to have that freedom and opportunity.

Wilderness Society v. Trump

Why We Fight:

Presidents are not pharaohs; nothing is written in stone and all illegal acts are meant to be rectified.

Summary:

President Trump reversed two illegal national monuments ordered by President Clinton and President Obama in rural Utah to the detriment of hard-working westerners but was sued for his efforts to restore the rule of law.

Legal Question:

Whether a president may reverse the illegal national monument decree of a past president who allegedly acted pursuit to the Antiquities Act of 1906?

Plaintiffs:

Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Grand, Canyon Trust, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, Wildearth Guardians, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Conservation Lands Foundation, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Zuni Tribe, National Parks Conservation Association, Utah Dine Bikeyah, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Archaeology Southwest, Conservation Lands Foundation, Inc., Patagonia Works, Access Fund, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Defendants:

Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States; Ryan Zinke, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior; Brian Steed, in his official capacity as the official exercising the authority of the Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Sonny Perdue, in his official capacity as Secretary of Agriculture; and Vicki Christiansen in her official capacity as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

Intervenors:

Defendant Intervenors - Kane County, Garfield County, and San Juan County, Utah, all represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation

Court:

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

A ruling of the federal government’s motion for change of venue to the federal district court in Utah.


When President Clinton ordered the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, closing off 1.9 million acres of public land to the productive uses that have traditionally supported western communities, residents were promised the resulting tourism boom would more than make up for the loss of ranching, mining, logging, and other economic activities.  The tourists, however, never came and local economies never recovered.  After President Trump, based upon recommendations by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke after a thorough study, announced in late 2017 that he was reducing the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument (an eleventh-hour decree issued by President Obama in 2016), the action was immediately challenged by radical environmental groups and the billion-dollar corporation Patagonia.  The groups, all totaled, raised $390 million for the latest year available and bragged of assets of more than $855 million.

The President of the United States has been delegated the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate as national monuments “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” on federal lands.”  The Act also mandates that the designations “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

The Act was passed to provide “protection to the large Indian ruins of the southwest.”  Its legislative history proves that Congress was concerned singularly with “the preservation of the remains of the historic past[,]” and that its entire and sole purpose was in order “to create small reservations reserving only so much land as may be absolutely necessary for the preservation of these interesting relics of prehistoric times.”  Congress “specifically rejected broader versions of the law that included protection of scenic areas within the Act.” 

Unfortunately, however, presidents of both parties have long abused this power by designating huge swaths of federal land as national monuments on only the thinnest of justifications—as was the case with the 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante and 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears designations.

In 1997, Mountain States Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the creation of the vast Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and in 2017 urged President Trump to revoke the decrees issued by Clinton and Obama.

On April 30, 2018, the three rural, isolated, and federal land dominated Utah counties that suffered economic privation from illegal national monument decrees sought to join in lawsuits filed by powerful environmental groups against President Trump.  Kane, Garfield, and San Juan Counties, located across the vast south-east corner of the Beehive State, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, argue President Trump has the legal authority and moral obligation to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah illegally declared by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.




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