July 28, 2010

Monuments Could Be Blocked in Senate Bill

Crapo, Risch, say restrictions needed on Presidential declarations

Washington, D.C. - Presidential authority to declare new federal monuments on public land will be restricted under legislation introduced today by Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. The National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act calls for Congressional approval within two years of any executive order by a President seeking a monument designation. If the two-year deadline passes without congressional approval, the land would return to its original status.

The legislation also requires that the President provide Congress with information about the actions 30 days prior to any Executive Order designation. It calls for public hearings and sets land restrictions for the monument designation. Crapo and Risch previously sent Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a letter warning against sweeping decisions about national monuments.

"This kind of top-down directive is anything but collaborative," Crapo said. "For too long, Presidents have had the ability to sneak monument designations into law without any Congressional oversight, review or approval. The most recent example came up when the Interior Department engaged in discussions about acquiring 140,000 acres of private lands in the Pioneer Mountains. But this is not an issue with only this Administration. This legislation is critical so that the public and Congress can review and engage in any decisions involving private and public lands and designations for national monuments."

"This legislation brings transparency to the monuments process. It is imperative that the state and communities where a monument could be located have a voice in the designation, and that Congress play a role in the process as well," said Risch.

Original Senate sponsors include Crapo, Risch, and Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), John Ensign (R-Nevada), Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas).

The authority to make executive decisions on national monuments was granted in the Antiquities Act of 1906. It has been used more than 100 times since its passage, and frequently creates significant controversy at the local level where land changes designation.