Boulder-based climbing advocacy organization Access Fund, along with Patagonia and several other groups, sued the Trump administration late Wednesday for what they alleged is the "unlawful dismemberment" of the Bears Ears National Monument.

The president moved on Monday to shrink that monument by 85 percent and cut another, Grand Staircase-Escalante, by about half. Both are in Utah, and the two reductions represent a historic action by the administration that is already setting forth major legal battles — Access Fund's suit included.

Monday's announcement could open other preserved public lands in the United States up to similar cuts, potentially followed by gas extraction and coal mining, among other uses.

Access Fund and Patagonia are joined by co-plaintiffs Utah Diné Bikéyah, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Archaeology Southwest, Conservation Lands Foundation, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Brady Robinson, executive director of Access Fund, said his organization is concerned by cuts to both monuments, but is focusing its suit on Bears Ears because it is "one of the most iconic climbing areas and landscapes in the world."

"We want to make sure," Robinson said by phone Wednesday night, "that these specific climbing sites stay open and protected, but we also want to make sure the overall climbing experience is protected: the pristine air quality, soundscapes, not having to negotiate around oil derricks."


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On Monday, environmental and conservation groups and a coalition of tribes filed lawsuits that ensure Trump's announcement is far from the final word in the yearslong battle over public lands in Utah and other Western states.

The court cases could drag on for years.

A coalition of the Hopi, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni tribes and Navajo Nation sued late Monday to challenge the Bears Ears reduction.

At least two lawsuits also have been filed to try to block the Grand Staircase decision. Grand Staircase contains scenic cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and arches — and one of the nation's largest known coal reserves.

The two monuments were created by Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton under a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to protect sites considered historically, geographically or culturally important.

Trump acted on a recommendation by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who also has urged that two other large national monuments in the West be reduced in size, potentially opening up thousands of acres of land revered for natural beauty and historical significance to mining, logging and other development.

The interior secretary's plan would scale back Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou, in addition to the two Utah sites.

Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, said of the suit filed Wednesday, "Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump administration's unprecedented attempt to shut down our national monuments.

"The administration's unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history. We've fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we'll continue that fight in the courts."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex Burness: 303-473-1389, burnessa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/alex_burness