Bears Ears National Monument

National Monuments

Antiq­ui­ties Act

The Antiq­ui­ties Act of 1906 pro­vides the Pres­i­dent the author­i­ty to des­ig­nate as nation­al mon­u­ments land and marine areas that con­tain his­toric land­marks, his­toric and pre­his­toric struc­tures, and oth­er objects of his­toric or sci­en­tif­ic inter­est. Since 1906, 16 pres­i­dents of both par­ties have des­ig­nat­ed 152 nation­al mon­u­ments under the Act, includ­ing des­ig­na­tions by Pres­i­dents Clin­ton and Oba­ma in Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­i­co, Ore­gon, Utah, and Wash­ing­ton that pre­served mil­lions of acres of vul­ner­a­ble, but eco­log­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant lands. The 152 nation­al mon­u­ments also include sev­er­al nation­al marine mon­u­ments in the Pacif­ic and Atlantic Oceans that were des­ig­nat­ed by both Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can presidents.

Pro­tect­ing Nation­al Monuments


  • May 2017

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion issued an exec­u­tive order call­ing on the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or to review 27 nation­al mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions made since 1996 under the Antiq­ui­ties Act. The review includes a joint review with the Depart­ment of Com­merce of five marine monuments. 

  • Decem­ber 2017

    In Decem­ber 2017, Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke released a report that includ­ed rec­om­men­da­tions to the pres­i­dent for poten­tial mon­u­ment revi­sions. Pres­i­dent Trump sub­se­quent­ly issued orders that pur­port­ed to reduce the Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment and the Grand Stair­case-Escalante Nation­al Mon­u­ment in Utah by approx­i­mate­ly 80% and 50%, respectively.

  • May 2017

    State attor­neys gen­er­al have informed the Trump admin­is­tra­tion that the Antiq­ui­ties Act does not give Pres­i­dents the pow­er to reduce or revoke exist­ing nation­al mon­u­ments. State attor­neys gen­er­al have vowed to join court chal­lenges regard­ing any such actions. In May 2017, Wash­ing­ton State Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son demand­ed that Pres­i­dent Trump and Sec­re­tary Zinke … respect the legal lim­its of their pow­ers” under the Antiq­ui­ties Act to reduce or revoke nation­al mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions. Fer­gu­son pledged: If Pres­i­dent Trump attempts to harm Wash­ing­ton’s nation­al mon­u­ments, my office will defend them.”

  • June 2017

    The next month, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra warned in a let­ter: Any attempt by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to reverse deci­sions past pres­i­dents have made to safe­guard our most trea­sured pub­lic lands is as unwise as it is unlaw­ful. As the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Cal­i­for­nia, I am deter­mined to take any and all action nec­es­sary to pro­tect the Amer­i­can her­itage which has become part of our mon­u­ment lands.”

  • July 2017

    The warn­ings con­tin­ued in July 2017, when Ore­gon Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ellen Rosen­blum sent a let­ter to Sec­re­tary Zinke stat­ing that reduc­ing or revok­ing mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions would exceed the Pres­i­den­t’s lim­it­ed pow­er under the Antiq­ui­ties Act, threat­en­ing our nation­al and cul­tur­al her­itage.” The let­ter con­tin­ued: If the Pres­i­dent attempts instead to revoke or reduce the Cas­cade-Siskiy­ou Nation­al Mon­u­ment, we stand ready to take appro­pri­ate legal action.”

  • Decem­ber 2017

    In Decem­ber 2017, in response to Pres­i­dent Trump’s announce­ment that he would sig­nif­i­cant­ly decrease the size of the nation­al mon­u­ments in Utah, New Mex­i­co Attor­ney Gen­er­al Hec­tor Balderas said: Pres­i­dent Trump sim­ply has no legal author­i­ty to alter mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions under the Antiq­ui­ties Act. His dras­tic reduc­tion of the Utah mon­u­ments is a direct attack on the proud nat­ur­al, his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al her­itage of the South­west, and it ignores crit­i­cal voic­es of trib­al lead­ers and local stake­hold­ers on these lands.… If the Pres­i­dent choos­es to con­tin­ue these attacks and comes after either Organ Moun­tains-Desert Peaks or Rio Grande del Norte [in New Mex­i­co], I will fight him every step of the way.”

  • Novem­ber 2018

    A coali­tion of eleven attor­neys gen­er­al filed an ami­cus brief in lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing the Trump Administration’s 2017 action to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and the Grand Stair­case-Escalante nation­al mon­u­ments. The Novem­ber 2018 ami­cus brief sup­port­ed Native Amer­i­can tribes and envi­ron­men­tal groups chal­leng­ing the Trump Administration’s 2017 action. In the brief, the states not­ed that the Pres­i­dent lacks the author­i­ty under the Antiq­ui­ties Act to reduce the size of nation­al mon­u­ments. The brief also sup­port­ed a request for a declara­to­ry judg­ment that would stop the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion from undo­ing addi­tion­al mon­u­ment pro­tec­tions across the country.