Bill In Congress Would Make It Harder For President To Name National Monuments

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 5:54pm
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
Ironwood Forest National Monument.

Republicans in the House Natural Resources Committee are proposing changes to the American Antiquities Act. That’s the 1906 law that allows a president or Congress to designate national monuments.

The legislation would narrowly define when land can become a national monument. Only man-made relics or artifacts could be protected, not natural geographic features.

There would also be a size limit of 640 acres for any unilateral presidential action. Any parcel above 10,000 acres would need approval from local states and counties before it could be named a monument.

Republicans accused former President Obama of executive overreach when he named new national monuments in late 2016. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, is a cosponsor of the bill, HR 3990.

“No one person should be able to unilaterally lock up millions of acres of public land for multiple use with the stroke of a pen,” said Gosar, who represents much of Western Arizona. “Local stakeholders deserve to have a voice in this public use decisions that impact their livelihoods.”

On a call with reporters on Wednesday, Gosar and the bill's sponsor, Rob Bishop of Utah, said it would bring a more public process to declaring a national monument. The bill would also require more environmental reviews for parcels of a certain size.

But Democrats on the committee called that a ruse. “We have to deal with the whole context, not just one portion,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “And that one portion doesn’t merit voting for the bill when the bill in it’s totality destroys the Antiquities Act.”

Grijalva called the proposed changes a way to slow down the process and keep land unprotected.

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