House Wants to Restrict Presidents’ Power on National Monuments

Bill would force environmental reviews of any parcel larger than 640 acres, cap size, and require approval from nearby land owners.

Utah Congressman Rob Bishop isn’t happy about Bears Ear National Monument, created by Barack Obama, and he’s still ticked about Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, signed into law by Bill Clinton. Bishop, who’s made a career fighting federal lands ownership and stewardship, is now advancing a bill that would put the brakes on presidential authority to create new national monuments.

That authority is bestowed by Congress under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which has been used by presidents of both parties more than 170 times to protect land and water. Bishop’s bill, H.R. 3990, would force a federal environmental review of any monument larger than 640 acres. As monuments increased in size, the restrictions would get tighter, with state and county approval being required. It would also require the approval of owners of private lands adjacent to new monuments, and the largest allowable monument would be 85,000 acres.

Bishop’s bill would also grant presidents the authority to shrink monuments, power they do not now explicitly have, though Interior secretary Ryan Zinke is encouraging President Donald Trump to do so.

In an opinion in today’s Washington Examiner, Bishop wrote, “There is no more flagrant violation of this principle of our government than the repeated abuse of the Antiquities Act in the designation of national monuments…Between 1906 and 1943, the law functioned basically as designed. Presidents respected the intent of the act. Most monuments were smaller and had clear boundaries with real antiquities inside them. By contrast, designations under the act last year averaged 739,645 acres, or more than 47 times the size of those created 110 years ago…Actions such as these are not the rule of law. It is arbitrary rule by one man.”

The Center for Biological Diversity said H.R. 3990 would effectively invalidate the Antiquities Act. “This legislation is an appalling, unprecedented attack on our national monuments and public lands,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Zion and nearly every national monument created over the past hundred years wouldn’t have been possible under Bishop’s bill. Extreme doesn’t begin to describe how reprehensible his scheme is.

“There’s no public support for this kind of radical legislation. Bishop’s only motivation is greed. He’s offering a gift to the fossil fuel, mining and timber industries and expecting something in return.”

Photo of Navajo National Monument by Ethan Trewhitt


Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 5 comments
  • Dan

    Rob Bishop has a constant stream of bills that attack public lands. He is re-elected by oil and gas money, despite living in a state that is loved and traveled through by so many for its scenic beauty. He has been in congress for 17 years with no accomplishments, unless you count introducing anti–environmental legislation that fails or having a toupee.

  • Bob

    Rob Bishop’s bills will return land property prosperity to the local communities and peoples access to public lands. To long has the government expand private government reserves for their elitist use and enjoyment.

    • Tim

      You’re hilarious, the elitist go to their own private getaways. These monuments are for all the people and every new one is another piece to the puzzle of keeping wild lands wild. Stop regurgitating the corporate response to anything that doesn’t make them money.

    • Dan

      “To long has the government expand private government reserves for the elitist use and enjoyment”. Please attempt to explain your comments. Maybe we could all learn something. Because from my perspective it’s hard to know where to start when someone makes a comment like that. Since when is hiking, camping, climbing, and kayaking elitist? Walking through the woods is for the rich? When I was hovering on the poverty line I walked in the woods, climbed the mountains, floated rivers and it cleansed my spirit, renewed my soul, so when I went back to the cubicle working for a company of elitist who stole from the land and gave nothing back I didn’t feel suicidal. That’s my perspective.

  • Bob

    Tim, get serious. I find your response presumptuous and a typical knee jerk reaction. I have come to my own conclusions after 65 years of experience. I have enjoyed earning my living in the outdoors. I have worked directly for the government and as a contractor as well as industry ( the same people that built your truck, puts gas-diesel in your tank, food and pharmacy in your Walmart) I have watched Government management, grossly screw up everything they touch. Whether it is the management of our forests or exacerbating a problem in progress, to unquestionably, a disaster. What could be more reasonable then letting the people in the communities decide about their natural resources rather then a politician only wanting reelection, or an Eco lawyer protecting his chosen career industry. I have seen enough in the many years of my life and career to stand by my position and encourage you to take a longer broader view of our discussion. I am not regurgitating. Would you like to discuss the core of this problem? Population.

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