Antiquities Act Under Threat

Antiquities Act Under Threat

Will our power to protect wilderness be forever destroyed under the Trump Administration? For over one hundred years, the US Antiquities Act has helped to designate gorgeous national monuments such as Denali, Grand Teton, and in our own backyard, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears. But all that may change this year. Adrienne Carter at SUWA, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance reports on Utah Representative Rob Bishop’s interests in altering the Antiquities Act.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced H.R. 3990, a disgraceful bill that would essentially gut the Antiquities Act. The full committee mark-up also effectively killed a Democratic request for more transparency in Zinke’s monument review process.

H.R. 3990, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), would so severely limit a president’s power to designate new monuments that had it been in the original language of the law, Utah would not have four of its five national parks and seven of its eight national monuments today—places like Arches, Zion, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears. It would limit the size of new monuments to 85,000 acres and require approval from local and state lawmakers and governors. A president would still be able to designate a monument in an emergency situation, but the designation would expire within a year without congressional action.

Monument sign at Cottonnwood Road, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott, Courtesy of SUWA

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), lead sponsor of the House version of the Red Rock bill, called HR 3990 a “blatant attempt to dismantle the Antiquities Act.” He spoke of the direct threat this bill poses to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and to all of Utah’s red rock country: “The stunning red rock canyons, protected by the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments . . . all of these natural features would be threatened by this bill.”

Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Judith Zimmerman, Courtesy of SUWA

Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) noted: “There is something good about this bill, and that is that it points out that the president has no authority to unilaterally shrink or undesignate a national monument under current law. This admission is useful because the president may soon try to invoke that nonexistent power to the lasting detriment of our country.”

Click here to learn more about how your representatives voted.


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