POCATELLO, ID - The BlueRibbon Coalition, a national recreation access group, recently asked Congress to pass legislation that mandates public involvement in any future Presidential National Monument designation. The Coalition says legislation is necessary in light of recently leaked secret plans for 13 million acres of new National Monuments in 11 western states.
The group's executive director, Greg Mumm said, "The time for Congress to act is now. A sitting President should not be allowed to unilaterally reserve millions of acres without some public input and congressional oversight."
Don Amador, BRC's Western Representative, stated, "The list of potential new Monuments includes world class recreation sites like the San Rafael Swell in Utah and the Stonyford OHV Area on the Mendocino National Forest in northern California. These National Monuments will certainly impact recreation. The public must be given the opportunity to review the impacts to recreation before Monuments are designated."
The Coalition's request comes on the heels of the release of a document labeled "NOT FOR RELEASE" which details plans for 14 new or expanded national monument designations, totaling some 13 million acres of public and private land. The request was made in an open letter to Congress explaining why legislation is immediately needed.
Elected officials in the affected states have historically opposed such large Monuments as a misuse of the Antiquities Act, the law that has been interpreted to allow the President to designate National Monuments. In a letter sent to President Obama in February, top Republicans on the House Natural Resource Committee asked that any new designations be as small as possible and be made with greater transparency.
Utah Senator Robert Bennett also sent a letter to Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar referencing President Clinton's designation of the 2 million acre Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in Utah. Bennett wrote, "As you may be aware, when word of the impending GSENM designation began to leak out in 1996, Clinton Administration officials obfuscated and lied, including to me personally, about their intentions. Their correspondence at the time acknowledged that they knew that had elected officials from the state of Utah been made aware earlier, it likely would have resulted in the unraveling of their plans for the monument designation. This was an appalling abuse of executive power and has sown the seeds of significant distrust with your department that continues to this day."
BRC's Public Lands Policy Director, Brian Hawthorne noted, "Former President Clinton used the Antiquities Act 22 times to designate nearly 5.9 million acres of public land as National Monuments. All of these designations far exceeded the 'smallest area compatible' guideline to preserve the resource and nearly all were designated without any public input or consultation with state and local officials." The Coalition noted that in the legal challenges to Clinton's monuments, the Supreme Court stated clearly that the separation of powers applies, and it is Congress's role, not the courts, to address any Presidential abuse of the Antiquities Act.
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