Bill proposes curtailing president's power to create national monuments under Antiquities Act

A Utah congressman has introduced a bill that he claims will restore the original intent of the Antiquities Act.

Bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop said the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” aims to rid the 111-year-old law, which gives presidents the ability to set aside areas to protect their natural, cultural or scientific features, of political manipulation. If passed into law, the bill would severely cut back the president’s unilateral ability to create national monuments.

Bishop, a Republican, also serves as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which is scheduled to review the bill Wednesday afternoon.

“This legislation provides for accountability in the act’s uses,” Bishop said in a statement. “It modernizes the law to restore its intent, allowing for the protection of actual antiquities without disenfranchisement of local voices and perspectives.” 

The Antiquities Act, which gives the president the ability to create a national monument and therefore preserve public lands from development, has recently become more controversial. In recent years, presidents started designating marine monuments, citing the need to protect unique undersea areas. In response to President Barack Obama’s creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the coast of New England, a number of commercial fishing interest groups filed suit against the federal government in protest.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the country’s national monuments. Zinke’s recommendations, delivered last month, include reopening marine monuments to commercial fishing operations. 

Bishop’s bill goes beyond Zinke’s recommendations and prohibits the designation of any marine monument. It has the support of the five subcommittee chairmen within the Natural Resources Committee.

“This process unfairly eliminates local input altogether and severely limits the public’s access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities as well as reasonable resource development on their public lands, said U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-California), who chairs the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs. “It is important that the decision to designate or expand national monuments is returned to Congress, where the local citizens and communities can have a say.”

In addition to Bishop’s bill, the full committee will also review a proposal by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) requesting Zinke release additional documentation from his review process to Congress. 

“Secretary Zinke is choosing to appease his special interest friends instead of listening to the American [people] and the resolution will prove that,” Grijalva tweeted last week.


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