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From The Mailbag: Monument Designations

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As active participants in the decisions made in Congress, Idahoans contact me with valuable input about the issues our country faces.  Realizing that many may not have the chance to contact me, I post the top five issues of concern from Idahoans and my responses on my website.  Idahoans have contacted me regarding potential monument designations and land acquisitions in western states.  The following is my response:

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes U.S. Presidents to unilaterally designate national monuments in the interest of preserving lands containing historic landmarks, buildings and structures, as well as other objects of historic or scientific interest.  However, this authority remains controversial, as the President is allowed to singlehandedly make restrictive land-use decisions without the input of affected communities or other local stakeholders.

To that end, on January 21, 2015, I introduced S. 228, the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act.  S. 228 would limit the President's authority by amending the Antiquities Act to require congressional and state approval of proposed national monuments on federal lands and certify completion of provisions included in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 prior to making any presidential proclamations.  Additionally, this legislation would prohibit the Secretary of Interior from placing any restrictions regarding public use of a national monument without congressional approval and appropriate review and public comment periods.  S. 228 has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for further consideration.  Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) has introduced related legislation in the House of Representatives.

One-size-fits-all approaches to public lands management, mainly by directives from Washington, D.C., take us in the wrong direction.  The designation of national monuments has been contentious for many years in the West.  In fact, concerns over national monument designations and similar sweeping executive actions have, in part, motivated coalitions of stakeholders to undertake collaborative efforts to solve these difficult issues.  Collaborative efforts have organized across our state and throughout the West, and they are being utilized to address everything from public lands conflicts to resource protection and species recovery.  Collaboratives seek to bring to the table interests that have a stake in the issue at hand, namely resource users, conservationists, local people and governments, advocacy organizations, federal and state governments and more.  Collaboratives are very difficult to do and do not always work out.  Yet, they are the single best process available for resolving conflicts and setting a path forward that has public support and will be implemented by public land management agencies.  Several collaborative efforts are currently hard at work in Idaho.

Americans deserve to enjoy a variety of benefits from our nation's abundant public land, including both recreational and commercial use.  I will continue to advocate for community-based collaborative efforts to manage our public lands, and support legislative efforts that meet that end.

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