Proposed legislation would affect federal lands, waters

Federal legislation reintroduced as the Improved National Monument Designation

Process Act would require that the president of the United States receive approval from state legislators before a national monument can be designated on public land.

S.437, reintroduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Jan. 10, would also require that for marine national monuments each state legislature within 100 nautical miles of the proposed monument give its approval.

The legislation, initially introduced by Murkowski in February of 2015, now has 25 co-sponsors, including Senators Mitch McConnell, R-KY; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; John McCain, R-AZ; Pat Roberts, R-KS; Marco Rubio, R-FL; and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said in a statement accompanying the reintroduction of the act that the Antiquities Act provides the president with authority to create national monuments, but explicitly requires the reservation of “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
The senator contends that this has not been the case in recent years, and that the Antiquities Act has been used as “a tool to sidestep Congress and create sweeping conservation areas despite opposition from local residents.

“The Obama administration alone has now designated a total of 554 million acres – equal to 865,625 square miles, an area five times the size of California – onshore and offshore as national monuments,” she said.

“President Obama has locked up more acres through monument designations than the previous 18 presidents combined,” she said. “His unilateral withdrawals have routinely com with complete disregard for local concerns and opposition, threatening energy, mining, fishing, ranching recreation, and other reasonable uses of public land and waters.  At this point, we have no choice but to reform the Antiquities Act to ensure that the people being impacted by these designations are heard and respected.”

Several co-sponsors of the legislation, including McCain, cited the impact of the declaration of national monuments in their state as an example of why the law needs to be amended. “The proposed Grand Canyon Watershed Monument in Arizona will threaten hunting, grazing, water resources and wildfire prevention in one of the most celebrated and enjoyed regions of my home state,” McCain said.

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