Grijalva Presses Interior Secretary on Whether He Believes Monuments Can Be Revoked Through Executive Action Without Congress

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today pressing him to explain his stance on whether presidents can use the Antiquities Act to revoke national monument status at existing monument sites. In an early test for Zinke, Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and other Republicans are urging the Trump administration to use the Act to withdraw monument status at Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and elsewhere despite the law not providing presidents with that authority.

As Grijalva writes to Zinke in his letter, available at http://bit.ly/2mYTQ7d, “Now that you have been sworn in as Secretary, your role in counseling President Trump regarding the future of the special places under the jurisdiction of your Department is no longer theoretical; advising the President on the future of Bears Ears and other National Monuments is now your solemn responsibility.”

When Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) pressed Zinke on the issue during his confirmation hearings, Zinke refused to answer definitively, saying only, “It will be interesting to see whether the President has the authority to nullify a monument.” Zinke would only describe Bishop’s scheme, which has never previously been attempted, as “untested.”

Grijalva’s letter today seeks to ascertain whether Zinke is willing to put the Interior Department’s reputation on the line to defend such an untested legal theory.

In a recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, Grijalva wrote:

Despite the fact that he could bring up a bill to rescind the designation himself at any time — as chairman, he sets the agenda for the committee — Bishop has decided to try to persuade the Trump administration to fight his battle for him. . . Instead of exercising his own legislative authority and having to defend his actions to his constituents, Bishop would prefer that administration officials like Zinke try to rescind the Bears Ears designation, end up in court defending a legally dubious claim and take the heat themselves.

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