In a move to restrict the application of the Antiquities Act by the president, House Republicans are pushing legislation that would limit the president’s ability to create national monuments and give states the power to veto monuments over a certain size.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said both Democrat and Republican presidents have abused the Antiquities Act. The “National Monument Creation and Protection Act,” which was approved by the committee Wednesday, would amend the Antiquities Act to curtail the alleged abuse of its application.
That abuse, Bishop and others claim, has allowed the creation of massive monuments with little-to-no concern for the local communities their designation may negatively affect as they are cut off from land that could be used for economic development, grazing and other purposes.
“No longer would we have to blindly trust the judgment or fear the whims of any president,” Bishop said in a statement Wednesday. “The bill ensures a reasonable degree of consultation with local stakeholders and an open public process would be required by law.”
If enacted, Bishop said, the bill would “strengthen the original intent of the (Antiquities Act) while also providing much needed accountability.”
Under the National Monument Creation and Protection Act, proposed national monuments between 10,000 and 85,000 acres in size would require the approval of “all county commissions, state legislatures and governors impacted by a national monument.”
Approval of proposed monuments above 85,000 acres would require an act of Congress.
Original sanctions for violators was a fine of no more than $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail (the average yearly income in 1906 was $520); it was viewed as a misdemeanor.
With time, the fine amount was seen as trivial, and few cases were brought to trial.
Between 1906 and 1979 there were only 18 convictions under the Act, four of which were about petrified wood. The total fines during this time were $4,000.
Since then, the resources to manage lands under the Antiquities Act have been limited.
The president can still make emergency designations to grant an area immediate protection. However, the designation would be set to expire in a year’s time unless extended by Congress.
Smaller monuments would be subject to review under the National Environmental Protection Act and environmental assessment and impact studies.