top of page

Taking on the Federal Government

The Heatons and ranching have gone together for generations. Six of them. Chris Heaton, the sixth generation, believes that the Biden administration is threatening his future by overreaching with a tool from the past designed to protect historically significant land from generations past.

That is why Heaton is suing. Heaton maintains that the Biden administration is using the 1906 Antiquities Act for more than it was intended.

The Antiquities Act began when Theodore Roosevelt was president. According to the National Park Service, “The Antiquities Act established that preservation of archeological and historical sites on public lands is in the federal government’s purview and in the public’s interest.” 

It provided tools designed to protect significant pieces of the past on public land. The National Park Service defines those like this:

  • Requirement to secure permission from federal land managers to conduct archeological investigations and remove objects from federal lands.

  • Penalties upon conviction for unauthorized activities, such as excavation and removal of objects.

  • Authority to the President of the United States to establish national monuments from existing federal lands.

  • Authority to the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, and War to review and grant permits to qualified institutions.

  • Requirement that excavated materials be permanently preserved in public museums.

  • Authority to develop uniform rules and regulations to carry out the Act.

Last August, the Biden administration declared 917,618 federal acres in northern Arizona to become part of the Ancestral Footprints National Monument. That declaration impacts Heaton’s ranching operations.

The declaration begins, “Since time immemorial, many Tribes of the Southwest have lived and prayed among the canyons and plateaus of a landscape unlike any other in the world. The region is described in numerous languages. Many of the Indigenous names for the area reflect the deep interconnection between the land and its Tribal Nations. For example, the Havasupai call it baaj nwaavjo, or ‘where Indigenous peoples roam.’ To the Hopi, it is i’tah kukveni, or ‘our ancestral footprints.’ In English, we call the canyon that lies at the center of this region ‘the Grand Canyon.’” 

After that declaration last August, Heaton began expressing concerns that cattle on the grounds would lack sufficient access to water because of the restrictions. This story from KSL Radio in Salt Lake City, Utah lays out those early concerns. 

It’s the tension of one presidential administration’s focus on preserving and respecting Native Americans’ heritage versus those, like Heaton, who now make a living on that land.

FULL STORY: Chris Heaton explains to Farm Journal why he felt like he had to take on the Biden administration because of what the Antiquities Act will mean for his land. Read that story here. 


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


Subscribe to Where Landowners Get Their News® and be the first aware of agricultural insights, analysis, and in-depth interviews.


Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page