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Biden Re-establishes Bears Ears' Original Boundaries

On October 8, 2021, a presidential proclamation re-establishes Bears Ears to its original size but lawsuits are unresolved and questions remain

River House, Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Many people celebrated the long-awaited reversal, but the legal question of whether President Trump acted illegally in reducing the size of the original monument by 85% have not been resolved. Of importance, the Biden administration did not offer a legal opinion on Trump's actions.

Several lawsuits that did claim Trump's actions were unprecedented and illegal, were filed shortly after his 2017 proclamation drastically cutting the size of the Monument. Those lawsuits were eventually consolidated, and later stayed until Biden decided how to approach the matter. Those lawsuits have been since been removed from the docket, but not resolved. Attorneys for each party must file regular status reports and will have to ask for the case to be reactivated before it can be closed.

Congress could enact a law establishing permanent protection for the monument, but there is virtually no chance for that. Certainly there was no action on the issue by Congress for that past 4 years.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit by the state of Utah has been filed, alleging that Biden overstepped his authority in nullifying Trump's act.

And so it goes. The Monument still faces the possibility of change in status with each administration, making it very difficult to plan for its future.

For more on the legal status of the Monument from, click here:


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