ATVSource.com | Calendar | ATV/UTV Forums | ATV/UTV Reviews | ATV/UTV News | ATV/UTV Product Reviews | ATV/UTV Racing | ATV/UTV Trails | ATV/UTV Videos

Articles
ATV Bone
Machine Reviews
Press Releases
Product Reviews
Racing
Trailheads
Videos
Manufacturers

» Arctic Cat

» ATK/Cannondale

» Can-Am

» E-Ton America

» Honda

» Kasea

» Kawasaki

» KTM

» Polaris

» Suzuki

» Yamaha

ATV Clubs
Calendar
Classified Ads
Forums


 

By: Robert Janis

Republicans in Congress Take Steps to Restrict President’s Power to Designate National Monuments

In 1906 the United States Congress passed An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities. On June 8, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the legislation into law. The purpose of the act was to give the President the authority, by executive order, to restrict the use of public land owned by the federal government. The act was passed due to concern for the protection of prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts called “antiquities” from private collectors who took items from federal lands located in the western region of the country. The act permitted the President to designate natural areas as park and conservation land called National Monuments.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to use the act when he designated the Grand Canyon and the Devil’s Tower as National Monuments in 1906.

Since then the act has been used more than 100 times by various presidents, both Republican and Democrat. In fact, George W. Bush, a Republican, used the act to designate three submerged areas in the Pacific Ocean as National Monuments.

Controversy has occurred almost every time a president has used the act to restrict the use of public lands. One main reason for this is that it gives the president the power to act unilaterally without consent from Congress. The concept of unilateral action on the part of a president has always been a problem with Congress since the U.S. Constitution created three co-equal branches of government each with the power to check and balance the actions of the other two. Twice so far the Congress has reduced the president’s power under the act. The first time Congress responded was when President Franklin Roosevelt declared Jackson Hole in Wyoming a National Monument in 1943. The Congress passed legislation in 1950 that incorporated Jackson Hole into the Grand Teton National Park. The law also amended the Antiquities Act to require Congressional consent for any future designations of National Monuments in Wyoming. The second time was when Jimmy Carter used the act to create 56 million acres of National Monuments in Alaska. That amendment, called the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, requires the Congress to ratify any designations of National Monuments in Alaska involving more than 5,000 acres.

Earlier this year a memo that was written by the current Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, which was meant to be private and only for the review of the staff of the Interior Department, was discovered and leaked to the public. Known as the “Our Vision--Our Values” memorandum, the document sketched out a possible change in policy by the Department of Interior concerning the designation of National Monuments and the National Landscape Conservation System, which manages National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness, wilderness study areas and other lands under the authority of the U.S. government. Public lands fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior and are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Department.

What scared many in Congress as well as off-highway vehicle enthusiasts is that the memo showed that the Interior Department was considering ways to close off lands adjacent to National Monuments from public access and to base decisions concerning the issue on preservation-oriented values over recreational or other use.

As the result of the memo Republicans in Congress drafted and introduced legislation known as the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act.

Michael Crapo, Republican Senator from the state of Idaho, is one of the sponsors of the legislation in the Senate. He explained the need for some kind of legislation to address the issue.

“The National Monument legislation was originally intended to designate a specific location as a monument. It has been expanded by its use by presidents over the years to include very, very large areas of land that are designated as National Monuments and then moved into the management regime for National Monuments that makes it very difficult to build consensus about land management policy,” explained Crapo. “So what has happened in the past is that when certain proposals to restrict or designate access to public lands or put additional restraints on public lands like wilderness designations have failed in Congress or have been unable to gain any traction, then presidents have simply designated these areas and bypassed Congress and the consensus building process which I believe needs to be followed.

“This year the reason why it became an issue is that recently in this last Congress, there were concerns relating to a Department of Interior memo that discussed the possible designation of new monuments and expansion of existing monuments in a number of states including my home state of Idaho,” continued Crapo. “So, a number of us felt it was necessary to put legislation in place to stop this from happening and requiring the president to work with Congress.”

The legislation was introduced in July, 2010, noted Crapo. “We realized that the president would oppose it, and his party controlled the House and the Senate. So we realized we would not be likely to get or find an easy path toward passing the legislation. However, we also know that there are a number of members of the president’s own party whose states are impacted by these monument designations--or possibly would be--who would want to see the president give greater respect to the process of Congressional consideration. So, although we knew it would be a tough road to travel, we felt we would have the opportunity to force the issue on to the table and put some pressure on the administration to back off of these unilateral monument designations.”

Crapo said that the legislation will be introduced into the next Congress and with the Republicans holding the majority in the House and having control of more seats in the Senate although still the minority, there may be a chance it could pass. Crapo points out that the legislation is even more relevant for the next Congress. He noted that since the memo incident and the introduction of the legislation in the last Congress, Secretary of Interior Salazar has elevated the National Landscape Conservation System to “Directorate Status.” “I understand that to mean that it gives it higher priority in the decision-making process in the administrative system inside the Department of Interior. He also ordered that biodiversity and ecological connectivity on the lands under the Landscape Conservation System take a higher priority than grazing, energy development, and tourism. This seems to show that the Department of Interior may be more actively considering some actions whether it be monument designations or others to achieve some of its objectives without working through Congress.”

Page 1 2 Next


Share This Talk About This In Our Forums