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National Monument Update: New Legislation Would Gut the Antiquities Act

The Citadel, Bears Ears National Monument, UT Photo: Bob Wick, BLM

Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, introduced legislation yesterday that would eviscerate the Antiquities Act. Bishop’s bill, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (HR 3990), would: impose size restrictions on National Monuments; eliminate natural or geologic features as objects that qualify for protection; require county and state approval for any National Monument over 10,000 acres; and give the President unprecedented authority to shrink existing National Monuments. If it passes, HR 3990 will invalidate the Antiquities Act as an important tool for conservation, and put all existing National Monuments at risk.

The House Natural Resource Committee will vote on HR 3990 tomorrow, Wednesday, October 11th at 4 PM EST. Please call your representative in the House at 202.224.3121 and let them know that you oppose HR 3990. Tomorrow’s vote is only the first of many steps required to pass this bill, but it is important that we send a message to our members of Congress that we oppose this misguided proposal.

For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given presidents the authority to preserve special places for their cultural, archaeological, biological, and scientific values. Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Arches, Capitol Reef, Grand Teton, and Zion National Parks were all first protected as National Monuments, an later upgraded to park status. Since President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law in 1906, 16 presidents from both parties have used the Antiquities Act to designate National Monuments, which have become some of our most important landscapes for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. Chairman Bishop’s proposal would halt this 100-year history of bipartisan work to preserve America’s natural and cultural heritage.

By including language to give presidents the authority to change the boundaries of existing National Monuments, Bishop’s bill concedes that President Trump does currently have that power. Earlier this year, Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 National Monuments to determine whether some of their boundaries should change. Trump is expected to attempt to shrink four National Monuments, including two in Bishop’s home state of Utah. Any attempt by Trump to reduce the size of monuments will immediately be challenged in court, and a group of 121 leading conservation law experts agree that he will lose. During that monument review, 2.8 million Americans submitted comments, and 99 percent of those comments urged Trump to leave our National Monuments alone. Bishop’s bill ignores the fact that the vast majority of Americans love their National Monuments, want them unchanged, and want future presidents to have the same authority to protect more lands and waters for future generations.

Bishop’s bill is the latest in what we expect to be a steady stream of attacks on our conservation laws and our public lands system. If you care about public lands and outdoor recreation, we ask that you call your House representative at 202.224.3121 and let them know you oppose HR 3990, and any other effort to undermine the Antiquities Act.

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