Rep. Raúl Labrador introduced a bill Wednesday that would make it nearly impossible to preserve new national monuments.
The bill, a companion to one in the Senate introduced by Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, would require not only Congress but also the legislature of a state to approve any national monument proclamation. Right now the President has the power alone to set aside a national monument and Congress can vote to overturn him or change the designation.
Presidents of both parties have designated national monuments with their signature since the Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed by signed by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt used it to preserve the Grand Canyon and Calvin Coolidge used the law to protect Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was expanded by President Bill Clinton in 2001.
Overall 16 presidents have designated 139 monuments that include over 500 million acres of land and marine habitat.
The legislation also requires congressional approval and public input before restricting access to public lands in the proposed monument.
“Presidents in both parties have overstepped the original intent of the law,” Labrador said. “In Idaho, the current threat of a presidential designation of a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument has distorted the debate on how to manage those lands.”
The law would require National Environmental Policy Act review before any future monuments were approved by the president, Congress and the state legislature. Sen. Jim Risch joined Crapo as a co-sponsor in the Senate. Rep. Mike Simpson, who has a bill to protect 270,000 acres of wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds, is not a co-sponsor but he has opposed the use of the Antiquities Act to protect the area.
President Obama has named 13 national monuments so far, the most recent late last year when he protected more than 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains in California as a monument. others include the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico and the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington.
“Alongside communities across the country, we will work hard to defend the Antiquities Act, and encourage President Obama to continue use it to safeguard our nation’s most important historic, cultural and natural areas,” said Brian O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation.