Utah Congressman Rob Bishop introduced legislation in the U.S. House this week that would place limitations on the 1906 Antiquities Act.
The “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” would require a president to obtain support from cabinet secretaries, state, and local governments before declaring national monuments larger than 640 acres in size. Though a president could unilaterally make an “emergency monument designation” of any size, that declaration could only happen once and last for up to one year. Bishop’s act would also make “natural geographic features” and other natural objects besides fossils and human remains ineligible for monument protection. Finally, it would allow a president to shrink existing monuments by up to 85,000 acres--or more with the approval of state and local governments.
In a statement, Bishop said the Antiquities Act is “too often used as an excuse for presidents to unilaterally lock up vast tracts of public land without any mechanism for people to provide input or voice concerns.” He said his amendments would allow for more accountability in monument designations.
Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton agreed with Bishop in a committee hearing Wednesday.
“I don’t believe that reforming the Antiquities Act to bring it back to its intended purpose, and protecting public lands and national treasures, are mutually exclusive,” Tipton said. “We can do both.”
But environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Western Priorities called the legislation “appalling” and “one of the most extreme attacks on America’s public lands in the 111 years since the Antiquities Act was signed into law.”
Bishop’s bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote.