Supreme Court bound? Utah files appeal after judge drops national monuments lawsuit
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah did not waste any time filing its appeal to a federal judge’s decision on Friday to dismiss the state’s lawsuit over President Joe Biden’s decision to reinstate the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in southern Utah.
The state of Utah, as well as Garfield and Kane counties, who are plaintiffs in the case, formally filed an appeal Monday, seeking for the case to end up in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which may be a way station before it ends up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“All along, the state of Utah has sought appropriate protections of the precious, unique area in the heart of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante regions, but the current monument designations are overkill, by millions of acres,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a prepared statement Monday. “President Biden’s designations exceed his authority. We eagerly anticipate explaining to the 10th Circuit why the law and the facts are on our side.”
Utah leaders filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court last year, arguing that Biden’s monument designations in 2021 were “an abuse of the president’s authority under the Monuments and Antiquities Act.” His order reversed an order issued by then-President Donald Trump in 2017, which trimmed the combined size of the monuments from close to 3.25 million acres to about 1.2 million acres.
However, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer ruled Friday that the court didn’t have jurisdiction in the case and sided with a petition by the U.S. government and four tribal nations to dismiss the case.
In his ruling, Nuffer wrote that Congress authorized a U.S. president to establish a monument “confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” He added that past Supreme Court rulings have reaffirmed that Congress can authorize “a public officer to take some specified legislative action when in his judgment that action is necessary or appropriate to carry out the policy of Congress.”
Utah leaders immediately said they would appeal after the ruling was handed down. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he believes the case will end up in the Supreme Court and the ruling helps Utah get there “sooner.”