Trump's illegal order would deliver an early holiday gift to the coal industry by opening almost 50 percent of existing monument to mining
SANTA FE, NM—WildEarth Guardians, along with nine other conservation groups, has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, DC, to prevent President Trump from gutting Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to approximately half its current size. The suit was filed a few hours after the President issued a proclamation that would cut almost 900,000 acres from the monument, devastating the magnificent red rock landscape that is home to 648 species of wildlife. The President’s order effectively opens up large portions of Grand Staircase-Escalante to exploitation by the coal industry. The proclamation is illegal because the Antiquities Act of 1906 only grants presidents the power to designate monuments, not the authority to erase or alter designations made by previous presidents.
“Never before has a president moved to eliminate protections on a landscape of this magnitude. This is an assault on America’s public lands heritage, as well as the law,” said Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “We look forward to the court reining in this belligerent President and restoring Grand Staircase-Escalante.”
President Trump has also issued a proclamation to drastically shrink Bears Ears National Monument. That both monuments are in Utah is no coincidence. Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Rob Bishop—two of the anti-public lands zealots in the state’s Congressional delegation—started agitating for President Trump to rescind or reduce the two monument designations shortly after he took office. The politicians are seemingly more responsive to the wishes of fossil fuels industry representatives than to their constituents.
Incredibly, President Trump portrayed the monument reductions as a conservation effort, telling the assembled crowd, “You know how best to take care of your land. You know best how to conserve this land for generations.” In reality, the Grand Staircase proclamation will strip existing conservation protections on the land removed from the monument, including portions of the fossil-rich Kaiparowits Plateau that the coal industry is eager to develop.
“President Trump chopping up Grand Staircase-Escalante is nothing short of a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry that only stands to undermine our climate, our clean energy future, and our legacy of public lands,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “This proclamation is clearly driven by the demands of private coal companies.”
The proclamation also defies overwhelming public opinion. More than 98 percent of the 2.7 million public comments the Department of Interior received earlier this year favored keeping or expanding national monument designations. Only about one in 100 commenters wanted President Trump to shrink or erase national monument boundaries.
“Despite Interior’s request for public comments, Trump never cared that we, the public, wanted him to keep his hands off our monuments,” said Krupp. “He’s not interested in preserving public lands for all of us that camp, hike, fish and hunt.”
Earthjustice is representing WildEarth Guardians in the litigation.