Amicus Brief: Garfield County, Utah v. Biden
At issue in Garfield County, Utah v. Biden are President Joe Biden’s proclamations concerning two national monuments: the Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Bears Ears, both located in Utah. President Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 and President Barack Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument in 2016. President Donald Trump reduced the size of both national monuments in 2017. President Biden re-enlarged both national monuments on October 8, 2021.
Because of President Biden’s actions, the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument now constitutes 1.87 million acres (an expanse larger than Delaware), while the Bears Ears Monument constitutes 1.36 million acres (akin to Rhode Island plus Guam). His two enlargements together thus set aside over three million acres of land—an area roughly the size of Connecticut. The president’s rationale was that entire landscapes could constitute “objects of historic or scientific interest” under the Antiquities Act. Throughout this presidential tug-of-war over the size of the national monuments, numerous lawsuits were filed. In this case, a group of plaintiffs challenged the president’s actions and the government moved to dismiss their claims. The district court granted that motion and dismissed the case with prejudice.
The Manhattan Institute filed a brief, joined by the Reason Foundation, arguing that: (1) the district court erred in finding that a president’s actions under the Antiquities Act are unreviewable, (2) President Biden’s orders failed to set aside “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” as required by law, and (3) the district court’s ruling needlessly implicates the nondelegation doctrine, granting the president broad lawmaking authority.
Tim Rosenberger is a legal fellow at the Manhattan Institute.