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Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) joined 16 other democratic senators this week to introduce a bill that would legally codify the boundaries of more than 50 national monuments established since the Antiquities Act of 1906, and block the President from changing them. The bill comes in response to the Trump administration’s recent rollback of protections for national monuments in Utah.
The bill, dubbed the America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018, would establish that only Congress has the power to reduce national monument boundaries. It would also require that the government survey, map, and create management plans for presidentially-designated national monuments within two years, and direct “additional resources” to their maintenance.
“President Trump’s unprecedented attack on public lands is not just an affront to the overwhelming majority of Americans who cherish these precious places — it’s also illegal,” Udall said in a press release. “This legislation makes it crystal clear that monuments designated through the Antiquities Act of 1906 may not be altered by future presidents because only Congress has the authority to change a national monument designation.”
Since the White House’s decision to diminish Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by proclamation in December, environmental activists and tribal groups have argued that the Antiquities Act of 1906 doesn’t give the president the authority to reduce or revoke a national monument designation, a position that some legal scholars support. The administration is currently contesting two lawsuits seeking to halt those changes.
A current House bill, introduced by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), offers a competing proposal for the Antiquities Act of 1906. Dubbed the National Monument Creation and Protection Act—or, as detractors call it, the “No More Parks Act”—the bill would prohibit the president from creating new national monuments larger than 85,000 acres, and require state and county approval for any monument larger than 640 acres.