BOISE — A federal judge in Idaho has sided with the Trump administration, in ruling the U.S. government does not need to turn over documents related to the shrinking of two national monuments in Utah.
An environmental law firm sued the U.S. government to get access to 12 documents related to the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments.
U.S. District Judge David Nye ruled that those papers are protected presidential communications.
The Idaho based firm, Advocates for the West, believes the 12 documents were part of a legal argument the Trump Administration used to shrink the two Utah monuments. The firm also states that it contains information on 12 other monuments which the President is also considering scaling back.
The environmental group’s attorney, Todd Tucci, told the Deseret News, “This decision shows how difficult it is to force sunlight on a government that flourishes in secrecy.”
The group says the documents, which were produced between 2006 and 2016 under two different presidents, may explain why the monuments were made as large as they were, which would undercut President Trump’s order to shrink them.
In an email to the Associated Press, Justice Department spokesman Andy Reuss said the agency has no comment.
Both presidents, Clinton and Obama, cited the 1906 Antiquities Act as their guidelines for creating the Utah Monuments. In both cases, those administrations faced sharp criticism from some Utahns who saw it as an example of federal intrusion into state matters. Last month, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, proposed a bill that would limit the use of the Antiquities Act by presidents.
President Trump signed orders to shrink Bears Ears by 85 percent and reduced the Grand Staircase by 50 percent in December of 2017, visiting Utah to announce his decision, a move praised by some and decried by others as both supporters and protesters lined the streets of Salt Lake City for the announcement.
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