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The American Anthropological Association (AAA), the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) have joined to submit an amicus curiae brief (PDF) in support of the plaintiffs who have sued the Trump administration alleging that the President does not have authority under the Antiquities Act to substantially reduce the size of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The President’s actions to weaken protections for the monuments represents the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history and the most significant reductions by any president to designations made under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Bears Ears represents one of the country’s most significant cultural landscapes, with more than 100,000 archaeological sites spread across 1.3 million acres of land; Grand Staircase-Escalante may have an additional 100,000 archaeological sites at risk.
In an effort to facilitate mineral extraction, off-road vehicle use, and other surface-disturbing activities, the Administration’s recent proclamation entirely rescinds the monument status of numerous archaeological objects designated for protection under the original proclamation that created the monuments. The Antiquities Act—a statute intended to ensure the preservation of archaeological resources and their surrounding context for scientific study—provides the President with no such authority. Archeological objects designated for protection within a national monument cannot lose their protections absent congressional action.
As the oldest professional archaeological and anthropological organizations in the United States, AAA and AIA were instrumental in the drafting and passage of the Antiquities Act in 1906. AAA, AIA and SAA collectively represent over 200,000 archaeologists worldwide.
The AAA, SAA, and AIA respectfully call on the Court to vacate the President’s proclamation, restore the full protection of the Antiquities Act to all archeological resources within the original boundaries of the monuments, and preserve the rich cultural heritage of these lands.
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Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association, with 10,000 members, is the world’s largest scholarly and professional organization of anthropologists. The Association is dedicated to advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems.
SAA is an international organization that, since its founding in 1934, has been dedicated to the research about and interpretation and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas. With more than 7,000 members, SAA represents professional archaeologists in colleges and universities, museums, government agencies, and the private sector. SAA has members in all 50 states as well as many other nations around the world.
Founded in 1879, the Archaeological Institute of America is North America’s oldest and largest archaeological organization. With over 200,000 members and over 100 societies across the U.S. and the world, we are united by our shared passion for archaeology and its relevance to our present and future.