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State AGs Challenge Trump’s Legal Power to Shrink National Monuments

California, New Mexico and Washington AGs have pledged to defend national monuments

December 4, 2017
Contact: stateimpactcenter@nyu.edu

Washington, D.C. — David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law and former Interior deputy secretary in the Obama and Clinton Administrations, released the following statement ahead of President Trump’s expected announcement in Salt Lake City today regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments:

“President Trump’s attempt to dismember two of America’s most remarkable National Monuments is a blatant attack on the integrity of one of our nation’s oldest and most important conservation laws. 

“Progressive state attorneys general are on record: the President does not have the authority under the Antiquities Act to override previous Presidents’ decisions to protect special public lands for the benefit of future generations through national monument designations. Only the Congress can do that. Yet the Congress has taken no action to lift protections for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument over the past 20 years, and it has shown no interest in removing protections from the more recently created, tribal-supported Bears Ears National Monument.” 


Several state attorneys general have been closely tracking actions by the Trump Administration to roll back protections for monuments. 
  • In June, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to protect California’s national monuments and underscoring that a President lacks legal authority to question monument designations made by a predecessor under the Antiquities Act.
  • New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas in May wrote to Zinke with deep concern over the Administration’s “review” of national monuments.
  • Also in May, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson pledged to defend national monument designations and encouraged Zinke and Trump “to respect the legal limits of their powers.”
ABOUT THE STATE IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit http://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.