01.22.18

Joint Statement on Motion for Summary Judgment in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Lawsuit

Durango, Colo., (January 22, 2018)—Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and the Conservation Lands Foundation on Friday filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment in their federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the December 4, 2017 Executive Order amending the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The three organizations released the following joint statement today:

“This motion asks the federal district court to issue an expedited ruling in favor of the organizations, declaring the recent executive order void and re-establishing the original monument boundaries. The issue is urgent because the excised parts of the Monument will be opened for entry, sale or other disposition, including mineral, oil, and gas leasing and the entry of mining claims on February 2, posing a severe threat to natural, scientific, and archaeological resources.”

“The motion was filed on the basis that President Trump does not have authority under the Antiquities Act to reduce the original 1996 boundaries of the Monument—a move that “unprotects” rich natural, paleontological and archaeological resources—or to override subsequent Congressional actions that ratified those boundaries.  

“More than 700 scientifically important paleontological sites have been cut from the Monument because of this illegal action, including many of the ones that motivated its establishment in 1996. Despite the legal prohibition on collecting fossils for non-scientific purposes outside Monument boundaries, critical paleontological resources from the Chinle, Tropic Shale, and Straight Cliffs formations are at risk respectively from uranium, shale gas, and coal extraction.”

According to the Washington Post, opening parts of the Chinle Formation for uranium mining—areas that were previously protected within the Monument—was one of the motivations for the Trump Administration’s efforts to reduce its boundaries.

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