Navajo Nation Welcomes Order to Keep Bears Ears Case in the District of Columbia

Bears Ears Monument

Published October 3, 2018

WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation welcomes Judge Tanya S. Chutkan’s Order—issued Monday, September 24, 2018—concerning the pending Bears Ears litigation, to which the Navajo Nation is one of the five party tribes.

Judge Chutkan ruled from the bench to order the federal government to provide plaintiffs notice within 48 hours of proposals for ground-disturbing activities within the over 1 million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument that President Trump unlawfully sought to exclude from National Monument protections with Proclamation 9681. The litigant parties are to submit a proposed order detailing the specifics of the notice Defendants must provide by October 8, 2018.

Plaintiffs requested an order from Judge Chutkan on this issue after discovering by happenstance that notice-level mining activities were happening within Bears Ears, and the United States declined to provide advance notice of those activities. Proper notice is essential to keeping the Nation and the other plaintiffs apprised of any injurious activity to Bears Ears that may disturb the status quo while the litigation challenging President Trump’s unlawful proclamation is pending. The federal government is now well-aware of its duty to provide plaintiffs with prompt notice of any such activity, pending resolution of the case.

Judge Chutkan also denied the federal government’s motion to transfer the case to Utah. The Navajo Nation is very pleased with this result, as Washington D.C. is the most appropriate forum for this litigation due to the national importance of this litigation, as well as for the many other reasons raised by plaintiffs in their opposition to the motion to transfer.

“This ruling requires the federal government to make common-sense notification to the Nation and the other plaintiffs of mining activities in the Bears Ears area that is being contested,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.  “We demand to know, first-hand, what activities the government is allowing on the land.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Representative Davis Filfred agreed, explaining, “The notice requirements are reasonable and the government should not have opposed them. Importantly, the court also ruled that this case will be heard in D.C., where this administration will be held accountable for its unlawful actions.”

The Nation looks forward to proceeding with the case and securing a favorable decision on the merits to restore the Bears Ears National Monument to its original boundaries as set out by President Obama after consultation with the Nation and the other plaintiffs.

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