A rancher, who is suing President Joe Biden over the creation of a national monument in Arizona blocking the use of nearly 1 million acres for mining and other uses, told the Daily Caller News Foundation he wants to see it “go away.”

President Joe Biden created the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in August 2023, hailing it as a step forward in the effort to “protect tribal lands.” The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit to overturn the designation on behalf of rancher Chris Heaton, who the DCNF interviewed on Wednesday, on Feb. 12, according to a release.

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

“I think the monument needs to go away,” Heaton reiterated.

“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,” the lawsuit filed on Heaton’s behalf said.

“Mr. Heaton maintains several springs and regularly removes tamarack trees to prevent the roots from siphoning the water supply. Removing the trees could trigger criminal penalties under the Antiquities Act and subject Mr. Heaton to criminal prosecution,” the filing says.

Biden cited the land’s significance to local Native American tribes in a fact sheet about the designation. The Biden administration’s action blocked new uranium mining claims on nearly 1 million acres of land, rendering some deposits of the essential mineral for nuclear energy untouchable.

Heaton and Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Frank Garrison also called for reform of the Antiquities Act, originally passed in 1906.

“As far as reform, they need to spell out exactly, I think, in more detail, define what objects are,” Garrison told the DCNF. “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.”

“There needs to be some kind of procedure for it,” Garrison added. “So, when agencies do stuff like marine monuments or marine sanctuaries, they have to go through a process. They have to go through notice and comment, they have give the public input on exactly how designating something is going to affect everybody. Under the Antiquities Act, presidents don’t have to do that. So, they just, they write something up, then they… enforce it and nobody has any input on it.”

Heaton noted that ranchers in the area only had the chance to appear at a hearing in Flagstaff, Arizona, about the proposed monument and that there was no consultation with them prior to Biden’s declaration.

“None whatsoever,” Heaton said when asked about whether ranchers had been consulted. Heaton noted that the local office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was unaware of the designation.

The rancher told the DNCF his family has been in the northern Arizona area since the late 1800s, but that his grandfather established the 50,000-acre Y-Cross Ranch upon which about 200 head of cattle graze, and expressed concern that relations between ranchers in the area and the BLM could change.

“My grandfather always said in the ranching world here in the Arizona strip, you have to have three things – there’s three things that really affect the ranching world: One’s the weather, the other’s the cattle prices, the third’s the relationship with the BLM,” Heaton told the DCNF.

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


The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

Harold Hutchison on February 19, 2024

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