Published since 1946
Antiquities Act Bill Passed by House Resources Committee
On October 18, the House Natural Resources Committee passed legislation that would make significant changes to the Antiquities Act. The 1906 law allows presidents to declare areas as national monuments to preserve “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest”. The National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 3990), introduced by Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), passed through the committee on a party line vote of 23 to 17. The legislation proposes to change the language of the law to only protect an “object or objects of antiquity.” It also proposes to change language that confines the size of a national monument to “the smallest area possible compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected” to outline very specific requirements for any monuments more than 640 acres and limiting any monument designation to 85,000 acres. The legislation also gives a president the authority to reduce the size of declared monuments as well as restricting the inclusion of non-federally owned land from within the boundary of the monument unless there is written approval by the landowners.
The legislation comes after actions by the administration to evaluate national monument designations made by past presidents. In April, President Trump signed an executive order calling on the Department of the Interior to evaluate monuments made since 1996 that protect more than 100,000 acres. The report to the president was submitted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on August 24 and in mid-September a version of the report was leaked to the press. The memo recommends reductions to Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou national monuments as well as two national marine monuments, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll, though specific size reductions are not included in the memo. In addition, the memo calls for management changes that would permit some commercial uses that are currently restricted (including grazing, mining, logging, and commercial fishing) in a total of 10 monuments including those mentioned above as well as Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande Del Norte in New Mexico. No specific actions have been taken at this time.