Washington leads multistate effort to defend over 2 million acres of protected land in Utah
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed two amicus — or “friend of the court” — briefs today, challenging President Trump’s proclamations to drastically reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in Utah.
The briefs were filed in two lawsuits over President Trump’s attempt to eliminate 85 percent of the land in Bears Ears and approximately half in Grand Staircase-Escalante from the monuments. The President’s action, which Ferguson argues is illegal, would effectively rescind a national monument for the first time in U.S. history.
In Ferguson’s amicus briefs to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Washington and 10 other states assert that the monument reductions overstep presidential authority and upend the purpose of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which delegated authority to the President to preserve the nation’s archeological, historic and scientific resources as national monuments. They also argue President Trump’s rescissions upset the relationship between the states and the federal government regarding managing federal lands within states’ borders.
“President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally revoke national monuments,” Ferguson said. “My office is committed to defending these national treasures in Washington state and throughout the country.”
In May 2017, Ferguson sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, opposing the rollback of national monument protections and declaring his intent to file a lawsuit if President Trump targeted monuments in Washington, such as Hanford Reach National Monument.
Although the Trump Administration did not take action against Washington’s monuments, in December 2017, President Trump proclaimed he would reduce the size of both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. This prompted five lawsuits that were subsequently consolidated into two, one addressing each national monument. President Trump responded by filing a motion to dismiss the cases.
The U.S. District Court has not yet set a date for oral argument.
The State of Washington is home to two presidentially created monuments, Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands, and one congressionally created monument, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Ferguson’s briefs were joined by California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Assistant Attorneys General Bill Sherman and Kelly Wood and Special Assistant Attorney General Aurora Janke with the Counsel for Environmental Protection are handling this case on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.
Protecting the environment is one of Ferguson’s top priorities. In 2016, he created the Counsel for Environmental Protection to protect our environment and the safety and health of all Washingtonians.
Washington has yet to receive an adverse ruling in cases where the Attorney General has led an amicus brief. Washington has led amicus briefs in support of 11 cases against the Trump Administration, and has been on the side of the prevailing party five times. In six cases, a decision has not been issued.
Ferguson has filed 32 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 15 legal victories against the federal government since President Trump assumed office. Nine of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has appealed or may appeal the other six, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers, 3D-printed guns and the transgender military ban.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the State of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Dan Jackson, Acting Communications Director, (360) 753-2716; DanJ1@atg.wa.gov