U.S. seeks to combine lawsuits over cuts to national monuments

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The federal government wants to combine legal challenges to President Donald Trump’s decision to drastically shrink two national monuments in Utah.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed court documents Friday in five lawsuits whose plaintiffs included the outdoor retailer Patagonia, several environmental groups and a coalition of Native American tribes.

The federal attorneys say lawsuits filed over each monument should be heard together because they deal with the same legal questions.

If granted, three cases over Bears Ears would be combined as would two over the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument.

They state the plaintiffs would agree to combine parts of their cases.

Trump announced his decision to drastically scale back federal protections on the land Dec. 4. He said was reversing federal overreach in line with state leaders, but tribes and conservationists vowed to fight.

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