Last week Utah Representative Rob Bishop introduced the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 3990). As stated in its summary, the purpose of the proposed bill is, “To amend title 54, United States Code, to reform the Antiquities Act of 1906, and for other purposes.”
The Antiquities Act of 1906 signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt essentially gave the President of the United States the ability “to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments.”
On Wednesday, H.R. 3990 passed the House Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Bishop, by a vote of 23 to 17. This means the bill will now move to the House floor for debate. When the bill was introduced last week it was met with strong reactions from the outdoor world, which were further echoed after Wednesday’s approval by the House Natural Resources Committee.
— Outdoor Industry (@OIA) October 11, 2017
– changes the very definition of antiquities to specifically exclude protection for America's iconic lands, water, and wildlife habitat;
– allows energy and mineral development on public lands and waters that are designated for protection;
– requires the approval of county commissioners, the state legislature, and the governor before the president can act to protect certain monuments; and
– acknowledges that the president currently lacks the authority to reduce or revoke national monuments, but the bill would provide the president new authority to do just that.
Patagonia also chimed in, releasing a joint press release with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and First Lite denouncing H.R. 3990.
In it, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario states, "This is a dangerous bill. The Antiquities Act is foundational to our American experience of protection of public lands and waters. To blatantly seek to weaken it is a national disgrace and a sell out to future generations of outdoorsmen and woman.”
The Sierra Club’s Emily Lande reiterated this sentiment, stating, “This bill goes after future monuments by making it next to impossible for any president to designate a monument ever again.”
Other environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council also came out against the bill, focusing on the newfound ability the president would have to shrink national monuments.
— NRDC (@NRDC) October 11, 2017
The National Monument Creation and Protection Act comes after the four-month review of 27 national monuments by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. His findings, which he relayed to President Donald Trump in a report, called for the downsizing of at least 10 of the 27 national monuments he looked at.
No president has ever downsized or rescinded a national monument, and it is unclear if the Antiquities Act gives a president that legal authority. We’ll have to wait and see how the bill is debated on the House floor.
If you’d like to speak to your representatives about H.R. 3990, you can contact the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
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