Utah Attorney General’s office selects law firm in legal challenge over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments

The office has selected the firm of Consovoy McCarthy PLLC to aid with research on potential litigation.

FILE - In this May 8, 2017, file photo, is Arch Canyon within Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. President Joe Biden said Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, he plans to review the Trump administration's downsizing of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in southern Utah. Bears Ears National Monument is on lands considered sacred to Native Americans who joined environmental groups in suing when the boundaries were redrawn in 2017. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

The Utah Attorney General’s office has selected a law firm in the legal challenge against President Joe Biden’s restoration of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Biden returned 2 million acres to the national monuments in October, which former President Donald Trump had previously removed. Less than two weeks after Biden’s announcement, Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a legal team to challenge Biden’s order, which has selected the law firm of Consovoy McCarthy PLLC.

The decision comes two days after a protest was held at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda, urging the state not to go forward with the suit — stating that it was a waste of money and that lawmakers should protect Utah’s lands.

The firm chosen will research potential litigation because of recent opinions from members of the U.S. Supreme Court, indicating that Biden’s use of the Antiquities Act is “the wrong way to protect such vast areas of southern Utah,” according to a statement from the Attorney General’s Office.

Reyes said in the statement that Biden’s actions regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase create “more uncertainty” and “prolong the political tug-of-war over Utah’s public lands,” so they continue to urge Congress to work with the state, local governments and Tribal nations on another solution to avoid “a potentially acrimonious legal challenge.”

“Two months ago, President Biden ignored the views of Utah’s state and local leaders and unilaterally expanded the boundaries of both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments,” the statement reads. “As Utahns know better than anyone, these magnificent lands deserve appropriate long-term protections. Unfortunately, President Biden has undermined that goal.”

According to the RFP award, Consovoy McCarthy PLLC will charge a “blended hourly rate” of $498, which was calculated through a formula of the rates listed in the firm’s cost proposal form. This formula includes 15% of the hourly rate for the firm’s lead counsel, 15% of the average of the hourly rates for senior attorneys, 50% of the average of hourly rates for junior attorneys and 20% of the average of the hourly rates for the firm’s paralegal.