White House takes first step to rein in Antiquities Act
WASHINGTON — The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applaud the executive order signed Wednesday that calls for a review of designations made under the Antiquities Act by previous presidents.
Dave Eliason, PLC president, said while the act was intended to preserve Native American artifacts and areas of historical importance, presidents have instead used the act to bypass Congress and local communities to place heavy restrictions on massive swaths of land. Most recently, President Barack Obama boasted of using the Antiquities Act more than any previous president — locking up 256 million acres of land and water in 30 separate designations.
“Western communities have been calling on Congress for years to address the continued abuse of the Antiquities Act,” Eliason said. “Elevating millions of acres to monument status without local input or economic analysis results in unrecoverable losses to the local communities.”
In 1996, southern Utah faced a devastating reality when President Bill Clinton designated 1.9 million acres as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Livestock grazing was drastically reduced from 106,000 AUMs. Now there are only 35,000 AUMs in use.
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon initially was created in 2000 by Clinton and was comprised of 53,000 acres of public land. In the final days of his tenure in the White House, Obama expanded the monument by another 48,000 acres. This expansion effectively will prohibit logging on approximately 35,000 acres, adding to the risk of wildfire as fuel loads increase and negatively affecting the economy of multiple counties within the monument.
“The executive order is an important first step to reining in past designations that were pushed through without local input,” said NCBA President Craig Uden. “However, in order to bring the act back to its original intent, Congress must act. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s bill S. 33 Improved National Monument Designation Process Act would require Congressional approval of new designations, taking the power away from the administration and placing back into the hands of those most impacted.”
The livestock industry, which supports many western communities, stands ready to work with the administration and assist in their review of designations and calls on Congress to pass Murkowski’s legislation without delay. F
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