FIRST ON FOX: A group of dozens of House and Senate Republicans filed a legal brief Monday to urge the Supreme Court to take up two cases related to President Biden’s authority to lock up public lands from resource development and other uses.
In the brief first obtained by Fox News Digital, the lawmakers — led by Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., and joined by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and 26 other lawmakers including three senators — argued that the president’s use of the 1906 Antiquities Act is an example of federal overreach and violates the U.S. Constitution.
The lawmakers specifically asked the high court to hear both American Forest Resource Council v. United States of America and Murphy Company v. Biden, two cases challenging the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southwest Oregon. Plaintiffs have argued that the monument expansion was both illegal and caused significant economic damage, particularly to the timber industry.
“We urge the Supreme Court to hear these cases and send a clear message that the President cannot simply bypass Congress and rewrite our nation’s land laws with the stroke of a pen,” Bentz said in a statement. “This is about upholding the Constitution, protecting our rural communities, and ensuring responsible management of our public lands.”
The Antiquities Act, designed as a federal conservation tool, grants the president broad authority to establish national monuments on existing federal lands. Since taking office in 2021, Biden has established five such monuments in Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Mississippi and Arizona, which have faced opposition from industry, lawmakers and garnered legal challenges.
Invoking the Antiquities Act and establishing a national monument effectively blocks the designated lands from normal uses. Under separate legislation passed in the 1970s, Congress established the so-called “multiple-use” and sustained yield mandate, requiring the Bureau of Land Management to open the lands it manages to various uses including energy development like drilling, grazing, recreation and mining.
“For far too long the executive branch has abused the Antiquities Act to cut off millions of acres of public lands, an action that greatly impacts rural communities across the country and ignores Congress’ directive on how those lands must be responsibly managed,” Westerman said Tuesday.
“The president does not have the constitutional authority to lock away our federal land and waters, especially without any local input,” he said. “I urge the Supreme Court to take up these two critical cases and set the record straight on the executive branch’s authority when it comes to regulating our federal lands and waters.”
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument – which involves the two cases that Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to consider – was designated in 2000 by former President Clinton then expanded in early 2017 by former President Obama. Environmentalists for years have defended the designation and expansion, saying it protects wildlife and plant species in the area.
But while the two cases are focused on that monument, they have much wider ramifications for future use of the Antiquities Act and national monuments created by Biden over the last two years, according to plaintiffs.
Biden’s designation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada and Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument in Arizona, for example, have faced opposition that included legal challenges from state governments as well as mining, livestock and agriculture groups.
“Whether you’re living in southwest Oregon near the illegal expansion of the monument, in Utah where numerous presidential proclamations have placed massive areas off-limits in recent years, or in Washington, D.C., where concerns about the protection of our democracy and constitutional processes are top of mind, this case and its outcome are critical to the future management of our federal lands,” American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) President Travis Joseph said last month.
In 2019, after the AFRC sued the federal government over the designation of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a lower court ruled in favor of the group and said the executive branch lacked authority to override the will of Congress which, in separate legislation, defined sustained-yield timber harvest as the dominant use of public land in Oregon.
Then in July, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision. Months earlier, in April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came to a similar conclusion in Murphy Company v. Biden, the second case that Republicans asked the Supreme Court to review.
“This lawsuit attempted to rob Oregonians and all Americans of a biological treasure that deserves permanent protection,” Kristen Boyles, an attorney with eco group Earthjustice, said after the appellate court ruling on July 18. “Appeals courts in D.C. and Seattle have now upheld monument expansion, rejecting every single one of the timber industry’s arguments.”