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By: Robert Janis

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

Continued from page 1...

As drafted, the legislation prohibits the president from issuing a proclamation designating a new National Monument until 30 days after he has provided information to Congress, governors of and tribal governments in affected states of what he is planning to do. Then, after proper notice and time for a comment period, the president can designate a National Monument. Congress then has two years to approve the designation and if it doesn’t, then the site loses its National Monument status.

According to Crapo, if the House passes the bill, it would give it more strength and momentum in the Senate where the Republicans are in the minority. If it does not pass in the Senate, then Crapo promises that Republicans will keep trying. “If it does not pass in the Senate, we will continue to look for a successful strategy for Senate passage,” he said. “A lot depends on why we were unable to get it passed. If it is stopped by a filibuster, but we get a majority of votes for closure (but still short of the 60 votes needed), then we would probably identify those senators who did not vote with us and who should vote with us because their states would benefit. That would include states west of the Mississippi River where there are more public lands. We will try to develop grass roots support in those states that would help us pick up a couple of extra votes.”

Congressman Devin Nunes, Republican from the state of California, is one of the sponsors of the legislation in the House. Nunes pointed out that there are currently 71 National Monuments located in 26 states covering about 136 million acres. He finds the dominant issue to be economic. “National Monument designations result in severe restrictions on public lands, resulting in economic devastation to surrounding communities that have historically relied on the resources yielded by these lands. I have witnessed first-hand how devastating a politically-driven monument designation can be to communities and individuals. In California, the timber industry has been driven to near extinction thanks largely to the actions of former President Clinton when he designated 5.9 million acres, including vast swaths of the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests, as protected monuments. The economic impact was swift and devastating with mill closures alone causing nearly 60,000 lost jobs,” said Nunes.

“’Political’ monument designations are clearly not in keeping with the spirit or intent of the Antiquities Act,” continued Nunes. “For this reason, I have introduced legislation--the National Monuments Designation Transparency and Accountability Act--that requires all new monuments to be approved by Congress within two years of their establishment. Without Congressional approval, a monument designation made under the reformed Antiquities Act would terminate as would any restrictions placed upon its uses. My bill will also require that within a year of a new monument designation, the Department of Interior produce a report on its economic impact, in addition to the impact on our nation’s energy security.”

Nunes added that a number of organizations involved with public lands and rural areas of the country support the legislation. These include the National Association of Counties, Public Lands Council; the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; as well as a number of state organizations involved in the wool and cattle industries.

Don Amador is the western representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition he has worked hard in support of the legislation and has said that the BlueRibbon Coalition supports the bill.

“BlueRibbon members have been crying out for a long time or have been concerned that the president would misuse the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate a number of new National Monuments. That would not be good for continual motorized access to public lands,” said Amador.

Amador admitted that the bill did not have a chance of passage in the last Congress because the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, now that the Republicans are in the majority in the House, he is anxious to see what they will do.

“The legislation was basically symbolic this year (2010),” he said. “At this point it served the purpose of stimulating debate on whether it was appropriate for the President to use executive orders toward an anti-access land-use agenda.

“So now the question is will Congressman Nunes reintroduce this bill or a new version or roll it into a more comprehensive piece of legislation to address the access concerns,” he continued. “Even though bills will be hard to pass, I see the next Congress--especially the House of Representatives--forwarding these bills and voting on them and holding hearings over land closures. I see that as really stimulating the debate on public land access for the next one to two years. I want to see the Republicans aggressively defend access to public lands and take a stand against the use of executive orders to forward the land closing agenda of the environmental groups.”

Amador is sure that the BlueRibbon Coalition and its members will be actively involved in sending that message to the new Congress. He also said that he expects BlueRibbon staff and members will attend hearings on the legislation.

He concluded that he expects BlueRibbon to encourage its members to contact their senators and Congressmen. “People often underestimate the power of a voter who contacts his or her representatives. That is powerful. In fact, that’s more powerful than having a national organization like BlueRibbon or the American Motorcyclist Association or other groups contact Congress. The single registered voter is the key to resolving the land use debate,” he said.
Senator Crapo concluded, “First, supporters of the bill need to contact their senators and Congressmen. Second, supporters should use every ability they have to contact others and encourage them to contact their senators and congressmen. Everyone has an e-mail list or a Christmas card list, Facebook friends, or a Twitter account. Everyone has a circle of influence. There are people they can reach out to. I encourage people to reach out to their circle of influence and get them to contact their senators and congressmen.”

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