On Tuesday, January 9, 2024, the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe filed their response in Garfield County et al. v. Biden et al. in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The consolidated case was appealed to the court in October 2023 as part of an ongoing attempt to undermine the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.

In 2021, President Biden reaffirmed the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument with a presidential proclamation. More than a year later, the state of Utah along with Garfield and Kane Counties, individual recreationalists, and mining interests filed two lawsuits to overturn the proclamation. The cases were consolidated. The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) represents the Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni as they, along with the Navajo Nation, intervened in the consolidated case.

The U.S. District Court of the District of Utah dismissed the consolidated cases in August 2023 for lack of jurisdiction. The judge found (among other things) that the proclamation was not judicially reviewable because the Antiquities Act allows presidents to create national monuments at their discretion.

“Unfortunately, the state and counties are determined to use taxpayer money to pursue a case that is based on a list of grievances and political theater rather than on legal standing,” explained NARF Deputy Director Matthew Campbell. “As we detailed in this brief, the plaintiffs lack standing to bring suit, and the courts have held for over a century that presidents can create national monuments. They may believe in their cause with vigor, but so do the Tribal Nations who have generations of connections to the region. And, the Tribes have the law on their side.”

Each of the five Tribal Nations have cultural, religious, and historic connections to the Bears Ears region. Whether those ties are to the sacred towering spires in the Valley of the Gods, the ancient migration routes throughout the region, the ceremonial sites that are still used to this day, or the many historic and cultural items that have been left behind by their ancestors, Bears Ears is a traditional and historic homeland for each of the Tribal Nations.

Read more about Bears Ears and the long fight by the region’s Tribal Nations to protect it from looting, vandalism, and exploitation at https://narf.org/cases/bears-ears/.

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