Bishop, Chaffetz, Hatch, Lee Introduce Bill to Protect Utah from Presidential Monument Designations

June 14, 2011

WASHINGTON – Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01), Chairman of the House Natural Resources National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, today introduced the Utah Lands Sovereignty Act, which would protect Utah from future national monument designations made by Presidential executive order.  Congressman Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) co-sponsored the bill and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. In 1950, Congress passed a law that prohibited the future establishment of national monuments in Wyoming except as authorized by Congress. This legislation would provide Utah with the same level of protection.
Last year, Congressman Bishop obtained the internal Treasured Landscapes memo created by the Department of Interior that lists as many as 14 possible new national monuments, two of which are located in Utah.  In total, the memo, which has since generated a groundswell of opposition across the West, identifies as many as 13 million acres of federally owned land and approximately 26 million acres of private land as areas that could potentially be subject to national monument designations.
“We have seen far too many attempts by this Administration to circumvent the open congressional process in order to execute their political agenda— the Treasured Landscapes memo is just one of the many examples.  While I’m not necessarily opposed to national monuments, I do not support efforts to create new designations, locking up thousands of acres of land, without the support of our local communities, residents and stakeholders,” said Congressman Bishop. “Last week’s remarks made by former DOI Secretary Bruce Babbitt are a reminder that the Antiquities Act is still being considered as an avenue to lock up millions of acres of public lands.  It is clear that former Secretary Babbitt isn’t in the business of protecting hard-working Utahns, and is instead looking to fulfill the agendas of a handful of radical special interest groups.  This legislation provides a necessary safeguard to protect Utah from future national monument designations made through executive fiat.”
During a press conference held on June 08, 2011, former Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Bruce Babbitt suggested that the President use the Antiquities Act as executive fiat to pressure Congress into implementing restrictive new land management policies. Babbitt stated that, “By voicing his willingness to use the Antiquities Act as an alternative to Wilderness designation, the president can bring Congress to the table to work out conservation measures acceptable to reasonable stakeholders.”  He went on to say that, “the best way to defend the Antiquities Act is for the president to use it.”  [read the entire transcript here]
“Utahns are all too familiar with the consequences of presidential administrations creating national monuments without public input or congressional approval. We have been living with lost jobs, economic inactivity and other fallout from the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument since 1996. National monuments should not be created in secrecy and without the consent of Congress, this bill will ensure that they won’t here in Utah,” said Senator Hatch.
“The Antiquities Act is a misguided and outdated law that lends itself to abuse by the Executive Branch.  The Utah Lands Sovereignty Act improves the law to ensure local input is considered.  Decisions regarding control of our public lands rightfully belong to those closest to the situation and those most likely to be impacted.  Management of our public lands must reside in the hands of elected officials who are accountable to their local constituencies.  Congressional, state, and local leaders are the ones best equipped to manage these precious resources, and to make decisions regarding their future,” said Congressman Chaffetz.
“Proponents who have abused the system suggest Utah is being ‘honored’ with national monument designations.  Frankly, Utah has been ‘honored’ enough.  We lost nearly 2 million acres when the Clinton Administration created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument without any input from Congress or state officials.  This bill will prevent that from happening again,” said Senator Lee.
The 1906 Antiquities Act allows the President to unilaterally designate new national monuments through executive order. This legislation would ensure that all future national monument designations in Utah are subject to the open Congressional process, which would provide Utahns and other westerners with the opportunity to have their voices heard.  Former President Bill Clinton used the Antiquities Act in 1996 to unilaterally designate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah without ever consulting the public or state, local and federal officials.
The total number of acres targeted as possible new national monuments in the Treasured Landscapes memo is more than the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
                 Connecticut:                     3, 548,160          acres
                 New Jersey:                      5, 582,080          acres
                 Delaware:                         1, 250,560          acres
                 Rhode Island:                   988, 800             acres
                 Total:                               11, 369, 600       acres