Bears Ears National Monument, Utah.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has introduced a bill, H.R. 3990, that would make it harder for presidents to protect federal lands as national monuments under the Antiquities Act – and make it easier to gut protections for lands already designated as monuments.
The bill, which will be marked up in the House Natural Resources Committee on October 11, comes on the heels of an unprecedented “review” of national monuments by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke which is designed to reduce protections for these lands.
“It seems as if Chairman Bishop and Secretary Zinke are in a perverse contest to see who can author the most radical proposal to sell out our public lands to development,” said Dan Hartinger, Deputy Director, Parks and Public Lands Defense at The Wilderness Society.
“The Chairman’s introduction of a ‘No New Parks’ bill to gut the Antiquities Act raises the stakes on Secretary Zinke’s unpopular, illegal, secret recommendations for the future of our national monuments.
“Had Congressman Bishop’s guidelines been in effect during the 20th century, nearly all of the nation’s most iconic national parks and monuments would not have been able to be protected for future generations. Parks that would have been denied protection include the Grand Canyon, Olympic, Acadia, Bryce, Zion and Arches and countless others. This is a radical departure from the bipartisan use of the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments and is opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans. Our public lands belong to all of us and we shouldn’t be making blocking new parks that should be protected for future generations.
“The only thing worth applauding with this bill is that Chairman Bishop has finally joined the overwhelming majority of legal experts in recognizing the President lacks the authority to reduce protections for existing national monuments, like Bears Ears. The introduction of this bill and the misguided provision to authorize boundary reductions via Executive Order makes it clear that even the Chairman recognizes that attempts to rollback national monument boundaries would be illegal under the current law.”
H.R. 3990 limits the Antiquities Act to “objects of antiquity” instead of “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” The revised law under Bishop would not include natural objects (aside from skeletal remains) or geographic features.
During the October 11 meeting, the House Natural Resources Committee will also mark up H. Res. 555 introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) that would direct the Secretary of the Interior to provide documents to the House of Representatives to ensure transparency related to the president’s executive order to review national monuments.
On April 26, President Trump signed an executive order that calls for a “review” by the Department of the Interior of national monuments designated since 1996. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect public lands and waters of natural, historical or cultural significance.
A draft report recently leaked to the press from U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended rollback of protections and significant changes to many monuments. Targeted monuments include Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, Gold Butte in Nevada and marine monuments in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Since the monument review was announced, millions of comments flooded into the Department of the Interior in support of leaving America’s national monuments as they are. National monuments in every corner of the nation provide countless opportunities for enjoying America’s natural heritage and outdoor traditions such as hiking, hunting and camping. Many of these places hold cultural and historical significance, including sacred lands for Native American tribes, and they represent our nation’s diverse population.
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The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.
Kate Mackay, Director-Wildlands Communications: 602-571-2603; firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Reinemer, Deputy Director Wildland Communications: 202-429-3949, email@example.com