Mohave County could challenge new Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni monument in court

Federal, state and tribal representatives gather at the proclamation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in August. (Alexandra Wittenberg/NHO)

Federal, state and tribal representatives gather at the proclamation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in August. (Alexandra Wittenberg/NHO)

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Until last year, the land surrounding the Grand Canyon fell under the purview of Mohave and Coconino counties.

On Aug. 8, President Biden designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument, giving permanent protection to ancestral Native American lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. But more than 350,000 acres of that monument now lie in Mohave County, restricting possible development of the area as well as access to mining resources including one of the world’s largest deposits of high-quality uranium. This week, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors will discuss a possible formal objection to the monument’s creation, as well as possible legal action against the Biden Administration.

Biden’s designation was given with broad support in Coconino County, about 27% of whose population includes Native American residents, but that decision was also made despite opposition from Mohave County officials. According to former Mohave County Board of Supervisors Chairman Travis Lingenfelter last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior sought input from Coconino County residents as to the proposed national monument, with no active effort by the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to include Mohave County officials in the discussion.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors reviewed and possibly approved Feb. 5 a formal objection to the monument’s designation. According to that resolution, Biden improperly designated the 917,618-acre monument as “objects of historic or scientific interest,” while failing to confine that monument to the smallest area compatible with care and management necessary to the area’s newfound federal protections.

According to the proposed resolution, the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act as well as the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act by restricting and violating the State Trust Act.

The proposed resolution also says that the new monument has harmed Mohave County, specifically, in limiting both economic development and mining opportunities within the county’s borders.

Legal action against the Biden Administration was threatened last year in the Arizona legislature, with efforts by Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma deriding the new national monument as an executive overreach and a “dictator-style land grab.”

Similar challenges to Biden’s designations of similar national monuments last year proved unsuccessful, however. In Utah, counties sought to roll back Biden’s previous expansions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Those lawsuits were dismissed by U.S. District Judge David Nuffer, who stated that only Congress has the power to limit the president’s authority, or to roll back national monument designations.

Mohave County supervisors are scheduled to discuss the proposed resolution, as well as possible legal action against the Biden Administration, at the board’s next meeting Feb. 5 in Kingman.

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