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Biden admin sued by Arizona rancher over land grab

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a joint press conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol after their meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 20, 2024

President Joe Biden’s administration is being sued by an Arizona rancher over the president’s designation of roughly one million acres in Arizona as a national monument to “protect tribal lands.” The Arizona rancher believes the “monument needs to go away” and is hoping the courts will declare the president’s action illegal.

According to a recent press release, the Pacific Legal Foundation is suing the Biden administration on behalf of Chris Heaton, an Arizona rancher who is hoping to overturn the president’s designation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni as the “Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.” Biden’s designation of almost one million acres as a national monument prevents various mining and development activities across the state.

“I would love to see the monument go away and that a court declares that the monument’s illegal. That the president did not have authority to do what the president did,” Heaton told The Daily Caller during a recent interview. “I think the monument needs to go away.”

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The lawsuit claims that Biden’s designation of Arizona land as a national monument under the Antiquities Act could cause Heaton to face “criminal prosecution” since the rancher oversees several springs and removes tamarack trees to “prevent the roots from siphoning the water supply” and removing the trees could “trigger criminal penalties.”

The lawsuit states, “With the flick of the President’s pen, the Proclamation has exposed him to severe regulatory burdens and the threat of criminal penalties for engaging in everyday conduct on his Ranch.”

Heaton told The Daily Caller that while ranchers were given the opportunity to attend a hearing in Arizona prior to the designation of the land as a national monument, the ranchers were not consulted regarding the proposal. The rancher explained that the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office was also unaware of the land’s designation as a national monument.

“So, obviously, with the creation of this national monument, our concern now is the working relationship with the BLM or the federal government,” Heaton noted.

According to The Daily Caller, both Heaton and Frank Garrison, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, have also called for the 1906 Antiquities Act to be reformed to prevent the president from making broad declarations with wide-ranging consequences, such as the declaration Biden made last August regarding Tribal Nations land in Arizona.

“As far as reform, they need to spell out exactly, I think, in more detail, define what objects are,” Garrison told The Daily Caller. “You know, basically, the president is designating ecosystems and landscapes, which aren’t really objects, they’re definitely not objects under the ordinary meaning of the act.”