By: Rocky Barker –
Rep. Raul Labrador introduced a bill Wednesday that would make it much more difficult to create national monuments.
Labrador’s bill and the Senate version introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo would require approval of any monument declaration from both Congress and the legislature of a state where the land is located.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants power to the president to set aside national monuments; Congress can vote only to overturn or change the designation.
Presidents of both parties have designated many monuments under the law, which was signed into effect by President Theodore Roosevelt. He used it to preserve the Grand Canyon. Calvin Coolidge used it to create Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument; Craters was then expanded by President Bill Clinton in 2001.
Then-Sen. Jim McClure, a Republican, sponsored the bill that created Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in 1987.
Overall, 16 presidents have designated 139 monuments totaling more than 500 million acres of land and marine habitat.
The proposed legislation also would require congressional approval and public input before restricting access to public lands within a 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 monument has distorted the debate on how to manage those lands.”
His proposalÂ would require National Environmental Policy Act review before any future monuments are approved by the president, Congress and the state legislatures.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch joined Crapo as a Senate co-sponsor.
Rep. Mike Simpson is not a co-sponsor and has not said he opposes the Antiquities Act. He does oppose using the act to create a monument in the Boulder-White Clouds; he has his own bill for wilderness in the area, part of a long fight he has waged.
All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation are Republicans.
President Barack Obama has named 13 national monuments, the most recent late last year when he protected more than 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains in California. Others include the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico and the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington state.
“Alongside communities across the country, we will work hard to defend the Antiquities Act, and encourage President Obama to continue to 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.