• Steve Brown

ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019 introduced to protect national monuments

Over 100 members of Congress have come together to introduce new legislation crafted to protect America's national monuments from further attack by the Trump administration. The America's Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2019 was crafted in response to the Trump administration's gutting of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments and attempts to shrink or eliminate protections for around two dozen other national monuments.

The ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019 works to protect national monuments through an official declaration of support for the 52 national monuments established by presidents between January 1996 and October 2018 through use of the Antiquities Act of 1906, a tool that helped establish the national park system in the United States.

The legislation also reinforces that existing law clearly states presidential proclamations designating national monuments are legal and valid and cannot be reduced or altered except through an act of Congress. It also sets the requirement that newly designated national monuments be surveyed, mapped, and management plans be completed within two years of designation, and that the new national monuments receive the resources necessary to ensure they will be able to provide economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to the United States.

The Trump administration ordered the Department of the Interior to review the status of 27 national monuments designated by previous presidents. More than two million acres were removed during the review, and there is no guarantee that other public lands included in national monuments could not be subject to further removal or loss of protection. The Trump administration's removal of national monument status is the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history.

The bill would expand protection for the Bears Ears National Monument to more than 1.9 million acres, directing it be composed of the lands identified in the Bears Ears Tribal Coalition's original proposal. In addition, it would designate nearly a quarter million acres of federal public lands in New Mexico as wilderness, and add more than 111,000 acres of wilderness in southern Nevada, building on the monument protections in those states.

ANTIQUITIES Act cosponsors include Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris. Feinstein and Rep. Paul Cook have also introduced matching legislation this year to expand protections for over 700,000 acres of California desert. The legislation would designate permanent protection for more than 200,000 acres of off-roading sites, while designated 375,000 acres of wilderness, including new wilderness areas, and would add over 75 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The bill, the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2019 passed the Senate today as part of a package of land conservation bills. It now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote. With its blend of conservation and recreation, the legislation reaffirms the position that outdoor recreation is a valuable economic tool. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that outdoor recreation generates $92 billion in consumer spending in California annually, providing 691,000 jobs, $30.4 billion in wages and salaries, and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Organizations supporting the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019 include the National Parks Conservation Association, Conservation Lands Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, League of Conservation Voters, EarthJustice, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Grand Canyon Trust, as well as the Bears Ears Coalition Tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni, and the All Pueblo Council of Governors.

You can read the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019 summary HERE, and the full text HERE.

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