Western U.S. Senators introduce national monument designation reform bill

Posted at 12:43 PM, Jan 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-06 14:44:05-05

Idaho U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo Thursday joined U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and others in introducing the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act, a bill to facilitate greater local input -- and require state approval before national monuments can be designated on federal lands and waters.

Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Shelley Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

The bill requires, before any national monument can be declared on public land or within the exclusive economic zone, that the following be met:
• Specific authorization by an Act of Congress;
• Approval by the state legislature, and for marine monuments, approval by each state legislature within 100 miles of the proposed monument; and
• Certification of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

“This legislation would allow for greater transparency in the monument designation process and would allow Idahoans to have greater input on monument proposals,” Risch said. “Further, congressional authorization would be required before any national monument can be declared on public land, which would prevent the president from designating a monument based on the administration’s agenda.”

“President Obama has locked up more acres through monument designations than the previous eighteen presidents combined,” Murkowski said. “His unilateral withdrawals have routinely come with complete disregard for local concerns and opposition, threatening energy, mining, fishing, ranching, recreation, and other reasonable uses of public land and waters. At this point, we have no choice but to reform the Antiquities Act to ensure that the people being impacted by these designations are heard and respected.”

The Antiquities Act provides the president with authority to create national monuments -- but explicitly requires the reservation of “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

The Obama Administration has reportedly designated a total of 554 million acres -- equal to 865,625 square miles, an area five times the size of California -- onshore and offshore, as national monuments.