University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor John Ruple was quoted in Outside magazine in an article titled “Trump Will Have a Hard Time Shrinking the Monuments.”
Ruple’s legal commentary addresses issues related to the future of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Read an excerpt of the article below:
In 1998, two years after President Bill Clinton created Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Congress passed the Utah Schools and Lands Exchange Act. The act authorized the federal government to trade the state of Utah $50 million and 145,000 acres of coal- and gas-laden federal land for 363,000 acres of state land inside the 1.7 million-acre monument. The land swap was seen as a pragmatic compromise at the time, one that fixed a patchwork of land ownership in the monument while providing Utah with new sources of revenue for schools. But that innocuous act might prevent Trump from shrinking the monument.
“When Congress passed legislation approving that land exchange, one could argue that Congress converted that presidential action into a Congressional action,” says John Ruple, who studies public-land law at the University of Utah. “It’s harder for the president to step in and say he can undo a Congressional act.”
There’s another issue facing a Grand Staircase reduction: the monument has already been litigated. An association of counties sued the federal government in 1997, arguing that Clinton overstepped the authority granted him by the Antiquities Act. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson issued a conclusive ruling in 2004: “The record is undisputed that the President of the United States used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Grand Staircase Monument.”
“[The counties] challenged it as being too big. They lost,” Ruple says. “The court was very clear that landscape-scale monuments are appropriate.”