We agree that our national monuments deserve better, as the Aug. 31 editorial “This land is our land” said. President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have slashed two popular monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Their plans for these and other monuments favor extractive industries over all other interests. The editorial rightly highlighted the government’s unseemly efforts to suppress the value of monuments and promote their exploitation.
As law professors, we disagree with the editorial’s offhand comment that the president has “wide discretion” to undermine monuments. Diverse plaintiffs, including Native American nations, conservation groups, outdoor advocates and scientists, have sued the president, arguing that his repeal-and-replace of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante was illegal. A federal court will decide the question for the first time: Does the American Antiquities Act authorize the president to reverse monuments? The answer is no.
Congress delegated a nimble power to protect public lands from exploitation. The act’s text authorizes designations, not un-designations. And the act’s history supports the text. There is no need for presidential power to reverse protected status; Congress can exercise that power itself. We joined 118 other law professors in a letter to Mr. Zinke making this point. We hope the court sees it this way and reins in an executive run amok on our public lands.
Sarah Krakoff, Boulder, Colo.
Robert Anderson, Seattle
Mark Squillace, Boulder, Colo.