With his tenure in office rapidly drawing near an end, President Barack Obama is working furiously to enact as much of his progressive agenda as possible through executive action before he is replaced in the White House by President-elect Donald Trump.
One of several last-minute actions taken by Obama was to formally designate as a national monument some 1.35 million acres of land in southeastern Utah, henceforth to be under the control of the Bureau of Land Management and known as the Bears Ears National Monument, named for a unique rock structure connecting Cedar Mesa and the Abajo Mountains, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Though public opinion on the executive designation is fairly split in the state, it is wholly opposed by the federal legislative delegation and many state-level officials.
“This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand,” Republican Sen. Mike Lee said in a statement. “I will work tirelessly with Congress and the incoming Trump administration to honor the will of the people of Utah and undo this designation.”
It may ultimately prove unnecessary for Congress and the Trump administration to get involved, however, as Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes just announced his intention to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the designation, according to Newsmax.
“My office is working closely with the governor’s office, federal and state legislators, and San Juan County to file a lawsuit challenging this egregious overreach by the Obama administration,” Reyes said. “This case is different from other past challenges by states and counties and we are confident in our chances of success.”
“The courtroom is not our only option. Our federal delegation is working hard to defund the designation or rescind it altogether,” he continued. “Additionally, we look forward to working with the new presidential administration on ways to curtail or otherwise address the designation.”
According to The Hill, previous efforts at legally challenging national monument designations have failed, with the courts unanimously upholding such designations as within the scope of executive power.
Nevertheless, Reyes and other opponents of the executive action remained optimistic that this challenge will end differently. Should the lawsuit fail, it is expected that Trump’s administration could likely use the very same provisions of the Antiquities Act cited by Obama to rescind the Bears Ears designation, or at least shrink it to a size that would still protect the sacred Native American tribal sites located there, which most people agreed should be kept safe.
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