SALT LAKE CITY — An outdoorsman who is a quadriplegic, ranchers and multiple sportsmen's groups are arguing that the reduced boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument should stay intact because the original monument's footprint threatened their access.
The Pacific Legal Foundation is seeking to officially intervene in the lawsuit by Utah Dine Bikeyah, Patagonia and others against the Trump administration challenging the December proclamation which shrinks the monument by 85 percent.
In its motion filed late last week, the foundation argued Brandon Sulser, Big Game Forever, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, the Utah Bowmen's Association, the Utah Wild Sheep Foundation and Sandy and Gail Johnson will have their interests harmed and access restricted should the monument be restored to 1.35-million acres.
"We are representing some Utahns and organizations that have used and worked on the land in and around the Bears Ears," said attorney Jeffrey McCoy. "They had benefitted from the downsizing. They want to intervene to make sure that their interests are protected and they can continue to use and work on the land as they did before it was designated in 2016."
The foundation's client also includes Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, whose constituents include residents who live and work on and near the public lands at issue in the case.
“Downsizing Bears Ears serves the public interest by allowing responsible public access and freeing local residents from unjustified federal control,” McCoy added."Patagonia pushes the idea that creating sprawling national monuments allows more people to experience the outdoors,” he continued. “As Brandon Sulser’s story shows, the reality is just the opposite."
The foundation, representing Sulser and others at no cost, detailed Sulser's story of one of a man at age 18 involved in an accident that left him paralyzed. Sulser continues to access lands in the Bears Ears region but uses off-highway vehicles and other motorized vehicles with specialized controls.
“For 18 years I enjoyed them by walking, but for the past 19 years, after an injury at the age of 18, I have visited them on wheels," Sulser said in a prepared statement. "Closing off roads, through a monument designation that is far larger than it needs to be, shuts me out, along with many others."
Other groups like BigGame Forever and Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife argued in legal documents that the monument's footprint under the original designation would ultimately have led to decreased access because of travel management restrictions that make getting around the landscape more difficult.
McCoy said ranchers Gail and Sandy Johnson worry that grazing access would be eroded over time. The Johnsons hold a grazing allotment from the Bureau of Land Management that fell within the boundaries of the original monument designation.
"While the Obama declaration said it would protect grazing (at Bears Ears) the Johnsons are aware of what has happened over the course of the last 20 years at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument," where McCoy said grazing allotments have declined.12 comments on this story
The sportsmens' groups, as well as the Utah Bowmen's Association and Utah Wild Sheep Foundation, say monument restrictions across the vast landscape in San Juan County will make it harder to participate in wildlife conservation efforts that include revegetation, transplanting operations and general, overall habitat improvement.
The motion, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, sets off a timeframe for plaintiffs like Utah Dine Bikeyah to either object or let the effort stand.
The groups filed lawsuits challenging Trump's proclamations shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments shortly after his visit to Utah in December to make the announcement.