The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that places new restrictions on the White House's ability to designate national parks and monuments.
The bill, which passed the chamber by a 21-vote margin, amends the 1906 American Antiquities Act which allows the President to unilaterally declare "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as national monuments. Under the new legislation, such designations would be subject to Congressional review and limited to one site per state per four-year presidential term.
Republican lawmakers, including the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ron Bishop (R-Utah), have argued the AAA no longer serves state interests and that the new oversights will give the public more input into the national park decision process.
Democratic opponents blasted the measure as an anti-environmental tactic designed to weaken the President's ability to protect natural resources. "Congress should not be diluting this popular tool, or making it more difficult for future presidents to set land aside and honor our shared history," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told The Hill.
In a statement released by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, former Olympic National Park superintendent Maureen Finnerty called the vote a "tragic development" and said that "national parks and monuments are being treated as a political football that is being kicked around, for the sake of nothing more than crass political posturing."
Despite today's floor vote, the bill is unlikely to survive in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority. President Barack Obama has also indicated that he will veto the measure should it get that far.