Prescott, AZ; February 12, 2024: Chris Heaton, a sixth-generation rancher, is suing the Biden administration for abusing the Antiquities Act to designate a million acres of land in Arizona as a national monument. 

“The Antiquities Act exists to protect Native American archeological sites, not to give presidents unlimited power to declare vast swaths of land and sea out of bounds for productive use,” said Frank Garrison, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “In our system of government, Congress makes the law and presidents are not allowed to ignore the constraints Congress places on their authority.” 

The Antiquities Act allows the president to create monuments on federally owned or controlled land but limits what may be designated to only historic landmarks, prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The statute also strictly limits a monument’s size to only what’s necessary for the care and management of the validly protected objects.  

In creating the “Ancestral Footprints National Monument,” President Biden designated entire landscapes, species, plants, and many other “objects” that go well beyond the scope of the Antiquities Act. This loose definition of “object” is far beyond what the Antiquities Act permits. The million acres encompassed by the monument flouts the Act’s limit on the size of such designations. 

When the Supreme Court declined to hear a previous case challenging a similarly excessive monument designation, Chief Justice Roberts sounded the alarm, noting that “[a] statute permitting the President in his sole discretion to designate as monuments ‘landmarks,’ ‘structures,’ and ‘objects’—along with the smallest area of land compatible with their management—has been transformed into a power without any discernible limit to set aside vast and amorphous expanses of terrain above and below the sea.” 

Chris is fighting for the right to use the land his family has been ranching for six generations and insisting that the Biden administration and future presidents adhere to the Constitution’s separation of powers.  

The case is Heaton et al. v. Biden et al., filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. 

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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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