« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Clinton-era monuments weather court challenge

 

A federal court has ruled that former President Clinton did, in fact, have the authority to create national monuments in four Western states.

The Blue Ribbon Coalition, an off-road vehicle users group, and the Mountain States Legal Foundation had opposed the designation of six monuments in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. National monument designation limits motorized use as well as logging, mining and energy development. In a lawsuit, the groups claimed Clinton exceeded his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906, and that the law could only be used to protect cultural artifacts, not the lands themselves.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton is former lead attorney at Mountain States, and the Bush administration has threatened to dismantle and weaken monuments (HCN, 4/23/01: Monuments caught in the crosshairs). Concerned that the government would not defend the designations, environmental groups intervened in the suit.

Environmentalists' fears were confirmed when, in its defense of the case, the Bush administration argued that the courts have no power to review national monument designations - a claim that would have allowed the president to shrink or do away with the national monuments without any judicial review. "(The government) was trying to hit a home run against the Antiquities Act," says Jim Angell, an Earthjustice attorney.

On October 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., dismissed the challenge, declaring, "At no point has Mountain States presented factual allegations that would occasion further review of the president's actions."