Congressman Introduces Legislation To Extensively Rewrite Antiquities Act

  A Utah congressman long unhappy with the authority given presidents under The Antiquities Act to establish national monuments has introduced legislation that would extensively rewrite the century-old act. If enacted, the rewrite would limit the purposes for which monuments could be created, require environmental review of proposed designations, and allow presidents to reduce the size of monuments without congressional action.

Passed by Congress in 1906, The Antiquities Act has been used by presidents down through the decades to designate national monuments to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” that are found on federal lands. Monuments designated via the act and which later became national parks include Grand Canyon, Arches, Grand Teton, Acadia, Bryce Canyon, and Olympic.

In recent years, though, some Republicans in Congress and some Western states have bristled over the act, claiming it gives presidents too much authority over lands they could better manage. Shortly after he took office this year, President Donald Trump agreed, saying his predecessors had exerted “another egregious abuse of federal power” under the act.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced legislation to drastically rewrite the act. As drafted, the measure would affect the purposes for which the act could be wielded, place limitations on the size of new monuments, require National Environmental Policy Act review of proposed monuments and, in cases of monuments between 10,000 acres and 85,000 acres in size, require approval “by the elected governing body of each county (or county equivalent), the legislature of each State, and the Governor of each State.”

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