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President Eyes New National Monument Sites


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Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01), Western Caucus Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, today introduced legislation that would safeguard Utah from arbitrary presidential monument designations and ensure that all future national monument designations only occur through an open and transparent process that includes input from local officials, residents and stakeholders. Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced companion legislation yesterday.

A Department of Interior (DOI) document recently obtained by Congressman Bishop lists as many as 14 possible areas being considered for designation as national monuments by the President, two of which are located in Utah. Collectively, the areas listed in the document could encompass 13 million acres of federally owned land. Additionally, the document identifies millions of additional acres for new federal land acquisition.


"I’m tired of this Administration targeting our lands in Utah and trying to control more of our state. There is a right way to make land designations and there is a wrong way. Arbitrarily locking up huge swaths of our state with the stroke of a pen, absent any input from local communities, is clearly the wrong way,” said Congressman Bishop.


The 1906 Antiquities Act allows a president to circumvent Congress to authorize certain areas for restrictive designation in special circumstances, but the process has been abused in the past. Former President Bill Clinton used this executive power in 1996 to designate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah without ever consulting the public or state, local and federal officials.


“The legislation I am introducing today will help ensure that such a decision, which would impact many in my state, does not occur behind closed doors with no opportunity for community input. If Secretary Salazar wants to keep his promise to work with our state, he can guarantee that process takes place by first supporting this legislation,” Bishop added.


In 1950, Congress passed a law that prohibited the future establishment of national monuments in Wyoming except as authorized by Congress. Congressman Bishop along with Congressman Chaffetz and Senators Bennett and Hatch seek to provide Utah with the same level of protection.


“This legislation will increase transparency and ensure that Utahns have a say in determining how federal lands are managed in our state. While I appreciate the Secretary of the Interior’s assurances, I feel it is critical, given past history, that we protect Utahns from a repeat of the process that took place with the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Utahns are fully capable of coming together to craft solutions to challenging public land issues, without heavy handed outside intervention,” said Senator Bennett.


Over the last forty years, the federal government has spent nearly $13 billion adding hundreds of thousands of acres to the federal estate. In fact, an area larger than the size of Florida has been added to the federal estate since John F. Kennedy was president.


“With the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act by the Clinton Administration still fresh in the memories of most Utahns, it is imperative that Congress exempt Utah from this deleterious act,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the original co-sponsor of the legislation. “The Antiquities Act lends itself to abuse and making off-limits large swaths of federal land, without local input, and always in secret. This is not acceptable for any administration, regardless of political party. In order to preserve the role of local, state, and congressional input in the management of our public lands, Utah must be exempt from the potential harm of such an executive power grab.”


The total amount of federal land potentially targeted in the DOI document could be more than the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

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