SALT LAKE CITY — Fearing mining activity looms inside the former boundaries of two Utah monuments, environmental groups and Native American tribes want a federal judge to require advance public notice before any ground-disturbing activity occurs.
A federal judge agreed to hold a hearing Thursday on the matter as part of a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration over the reduction in boundaries at the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
In a request filed before Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, the groups say notice should be required for any activity within the former monument boundaries that would have been prohibited under the prior designations.
"Without this notice, plaintiffs are unable to preserve the status quo or know when their interests have been affected, " the court document reads.
The suit, which is before the D.C. federal court, was filed after President Donald Trump announced the boundary reductions in Salt Lake City last December.
Plaintiffs include multiple groups like Earthjustice, Utah Dine Bikeyah and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, as well as multiple tribes, including the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo.
They assert the reductions fall outside the scope of the president's authority and are therefore illegal.
In June, a Canadian-based company announced intentions to begin exploratory activity on land at Colt Mesa, which was inside the former boundaries of Grand Staircase.
Although the Bureau of Land Management has mining claims on file involving land inside the former monument boundary, no mining plans of operations have been filed, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The BLM said any surface disturbance greater than five acres requires the mining plan and a reclamation bond. Any agency approval first requires an environmental analysis which includes public comment.
Although the groups suing the Trump administration sought advanced notice of activity in January, Chutkan declined to approve the request.
The announcement this summer by Glacier Lake Resources involving planned activity at Colt Mesa drove the groups to renew their request.
The Canadian-based company said investor interest in cobalt — used in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries — is on the uptick.1 comment on this story
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management approved the expansion of two uranium mines in San Juan County.
Those are near the former boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, but they were not part of the actual monument footprint declared in the 2016 designation by President Barack Obama.
The 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase now exists as three separate units totaling just over a million acres.
Bears Ears, designated at 1.35 million acres, was reduced by 85 percent and divided into two separate monuments.