The two top Republicans in the Arizona Legislature challenged the Democratic president Joe BidenLast summer, he created a new national monument just outside Grand Canyon National Park, alleging that he had exceeded his legal authority in making the designation under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historically or culturally significant. In a lawsuit filed Monday against Biden, Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma alleged that Biden’s decision to designate the new monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 was not limited to the preservation of objects of historical or scientific value and was not limited to the “smallest area consistent with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” »
The monument designation will help preserve 1,562 square miles (4,046 square kilometers) just north and south of Grand Canyon National Park. The monument, called Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni, turned a decades-long vision for Native American tribes and environmentalists into reality. Republican lawmakers and the uranium mining industry that operates in the region had opposed the designation, touting economic benefits to the region while arguing that mining efforts are a matter of national security.
“Biden’s move is incredibly disingenuous because it has nothing to do with protecting real objects,” Petersen said in a statement. “Instead, it aims to end all mining, ranching and other local uses of federal lands that are essential to our energy independence from adversary foreign nations, our food supply and the strength of our economy. »
The White House and the US Interior Department declined to comment on the complaint.
Mohave County and the northern Arizona communities of Colorado City and Fredonia also sued the Biden administration in the challenge.
The lawsuit states that Mohave County and Colorado City will experience a loss of tax revenue due to reduced mining activity and that land use restrictions resulting from monument designation will reduce the value of the surrounding lands, including State Trust lands, that generate revenue that benefits Arizona public schools and other beneficiaries.
The Interior Ministry, reacting to concerns about the risk of water contamination, declared a 20-year moratorium on the filing of new mining concessions around the national park in 2012. No uranium mines are operating in Arizona, although the Pinyon Plain Mine, just south of Grand Canyon National Park, has been under development for years. Other claims benefit from acquired rights. The federal government said nearly a dozen mines in the region that were removed from new mining concessions could still potentially open. Just days after Biden made the designation in northern Arizona, a federal judge in Utah dismissed a lawsuit challenging the president’s restoration of two sprawling national monuments in the state that had been reduced by the then-President Donald Trump.
The judge said Biden acted within his authority when he issued proclamations reinstating the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in 2021. Both monuments are on land sacred to many Native Americans.