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Groups Critical Of Effort To Rewrite The Antiquities Act


A move Wednesday to drastically rewrite The Antiquities Act that presidents of both parties have used for more than a century to establish national monuments drew immediate criticism from organizations ranging from hunters and anglers to retired National Park Service personnel.

While U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop's public relations staff has been busy sending out releases condemning recent uses of the act, saying it had turned into a "menace to constitutional government," opponents described the Republican's effort to rewrite the act that President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law in 1906 as an "unvarnished attack on our national parks and public lands."

If Rep. Bishop's proposal makes its way into law, it would limit the purposes for which monuments could be created, require environmental review of proposed designations, and allow presidents to reduce the size of monuments without congressional action. On a straight party line vote Wednesday evening the House Natural Resources Committee adopted Mr. Bishop's measure and sent it to the full House for consideration.

"The argument that recent uses of the act have conformed to the law's legal limitations would be funny if it wasn't so damaging," Rep. Bishop wrote in an opinion piece earlier this week. "The law has been distorted beyond recognition by presidents who have used it to circumvent Congress, impose pet policies of Washington elites and radical special interest groups on local communities, and, most significantly, chip away at the traditions of rule of law and checks and balances."

Rep. Bishop, from Utah, is among some Republicans in Congress and GOP politicians from Western states who hate the act, claiming it gives presidents too much authority over lands they could better manage.

Shortly after he took office this year, President Donald Trump agreed, saying his predecessors had exerted "another egregious abuse of federal power" under the act.

"The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as The Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control. Eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land," President Trump said in late April when he directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 monuments created by Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton to determine whether they had taken advantage of the act and created overly large monuments.

A copy of Secretary Zinke's recommendations to the president called for 10 of the 27 monuments to either be shrunk in size or opened to resource extraction. The president has yet to act on those recommendations.

At the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, officials called for Rep. Bishop's measure to be rejected by both chambers of Congress.

"It appears Rep. Bishop and Interior Secretary Zinke are in a race to see who has the most anti-parks and public lands agenda," the coalition, comprised of retired Park Service personnel, said in a prepared statement. "This bill upends a century of the Antiquities Act being successfully used by Republican and Democratic presidents to protect some of the most iconic and loved parks and public lands in our country.  And this is being done to allow development of these lands that belong to all Americans for the benefit of private companies and individuals. This bill is a slap in the face to all Americans who love our public lands, and it should be defeated in the House and Senate."

Joining in the criticism were officials from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Patagonia, and First Lite, an outdoor gear manufacturer with a focus on hunting.

“Congressman Bishop’s bill should cause all Americans to sit up and take notice,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “His attack on one of America’s bedrock conservation laws is bold and real – and cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. As chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Bishop should be working to increase our public lands legacy – not destroy it. He has plenty to do, such as working to fully fund and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, rather than wasting his time on unpopular, ill-fated pipe dreams.”

At Patagonia, CEO and President Rose Marcario called the bill "dangerous."

"Congressman Bishop should recognize the committee he leads is meant to protect our natural resources, not destroy them,” she said. “The Antiquities Act is foundational to our American experience of protection of public lands and waters. To blatantly seek to weaken it is a national disgrace and a sell out to future generations of outdoorsmen and woman. We implore him to move on the pending public land bills before his committee that protect recreation, hunting and fishing on public lands. It is highly ironic that the chairman is adopting a 'Washington knows best' approach when just this summer, over 2.5 million Americans from across the country spoke out in support of our public lands.”

National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O’Mara noted that if Mr. Bishop's approach to the act had been taken a century ago, "the Grand Canyon, Arches and Acadia national parks or even Devils Tower would not be what they are today. If this bill passes, even existing national monuments could be carved up, paved over or opened to mining and drilling under arbitrary criteria and a process that shuts out the public."

"Nothing less than our nation’s public lands heritage and a core part of our American identity is at stake, and the National Wildlife Federation, its state affiliates and supporters will fight to preserve the legacy built by Theodore Roosevelt and his successors from both parties," added Mr. O'Mara.

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Now is the time for all who care about our public lands and parks to make sure our memberships are paid up in organizations that will stand and oppose this garbage. 

I'd be curious as to how many of those hateful, soul-less, greedy, grasping creatures in congress have actually traveled to any of these parks and seen nature (not dollar signs).  For those of you who might think it's a great idea to gut The Antiquities Act, I'll personally travel to those national parks and national monuments that might be trashed as a result of this planned travesty and photograph what I see so you can judge for yourself.  This just burns me up.  Zinke aint no reincarnation of Theodore Roosevelt, that's for sure.

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