Grand Staircase-Escalante Suit Heard in Court

Grand Staircase-Escalante Suit Heard in Court

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DENVER (AP) -- One of the West's most recent high-profile land battles now rests with a federal appeals court in Denver.

The Mountain States Legal Foundation is trying to revive its lawsuit challenging the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in south-central Utah. The Denver-based group contends former President Clinton abused his authority when he created the monument in 1996.

The foundation has appealed a Salt Lake City's judge's dismissal of the suit in federal court.

Attorneys for the Justice Department and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance argued before the Tenth U-S Circuit Court of Appeals today that Mountain States can't demonstrate how creation of the monument harmed anyone.

They also say the Antiquities Act gave Clinton the authority to establish the monument.

That act allows the president to protect land of historic and scientific importance.

The three-judge panel didn't indicate when it would rule on the case.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante covers one-point-seven (m) million acres, and includes towering red-rock walls, canyons and spires.

Clinton angered Utah state and congressional officials when he set the land aside, in part because of coal and other minerals in the area that could have been mined.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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