Property-rights groups want Supreme Court to decide monument status

The Associated Press
Monday October 21, 2002

DENVER – Property-rights groups plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether President Clinton acted illegally when he protected Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients, California’s groves of giant sequoias and six other federal tracts as national monuments in 2000. 

On Friday, a federal appeals court in Washington rejected arguments by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, timber interests and recreation groups that Clinton overstepped his authority when he established seven national monuments in five states during the last months of his administration. 

William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, said Clinton violated the Antiquities Act of 1906 when he set aside the 2 million acres. 

“I think the big difficulty with the court’s decision is that it indicates the president has the power to achieve whatever environmental objective he wants through the antiquities act,” Pendley said. “We think that’s too broad a reading.” 

The other monuments challenged were Grand Canyon-Parashant, Ironwood Forest and Sonoran Desert national monuments in Arizona; Giant Sequoia National Monument in California; the Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon and the Hanford Reach in Washington. 

The three-judge appellate panel called the Mountain States’ claim a “bald assertion” with no evidence. 

Earthjustice lawyer Jim Angell said the justices’ strong language proves the challenge was baseless. 

The group intervened because lawyers were afraid Bush wouldn’t defend the monuments. The Interior Department claimed presidents can scale back or eliminate monuments under the act, which the court rejected.