Bears Ears and the Administrative Process

On Friday afternoon, the Department of Interior asked for comments on various national monuments that were designated under the Antiquities Act as far back as 1996. This is in response to the recent executive order. No president has ever tried to “abolish a national monument” but it’s pretty clear by now that the “no president has ever done X before” doesn’t stop this administration.

The notice has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but the release stated that comments on Bears Ears specifically must be made within 15 days of the publication of the notice. There are 21 other monuments up for comments which must be made with in 60 days.

Also on Friday at 6pm, the Department sent out a media advisory for a series of listening sessions that would start on that Sunday. While the administration posted a picture of Secretary Zinke meeting with Ute tribal leaders, the administration’s actions make clear that they want certain limited input–the Secretary’s language is that he wants the “voice of locals” when it comes to monuments. Given the federal government has been hearing from the voice of locals for more than the past two years, this is disingenuous at best. NARF and Navajo Nation both issued press releases last month in response to the executive order.

While administrative law can be dense and complicated, a court can still find against an agency’s actions. Part of the record to make that finding is the public comments. While public comments on this matter may not make much of a difference to the administration, it CAN make a difference in the courts.

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