Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) has launched an attack against the Antiquities Act of 1906 which is part of the conservation legacy of president Theodore Roosevelt.
The Antiquities Act allows presidents to create national monuments on federal public lands without approval from the U.S. Congress and it was originally passed to enable quick action in response to looting of Native American artifacts.
Bishop’s bill to alter the Antiquities Act is cynically titled “The National Monument Creation and Protection Act,” even though it is a horror show of anti-monument rules.
The legislation would severely limit the size of new national monuments and forbid creating several monuments within 50 miles of each other. It would require county and state government approval to designate national monuments, and give private landowners veto power if they own property adjacent to proposed monuments. It would also change the rules to allow sitting presidents to shrink existing monuments so that President Trump could shrink Utah’s Bears Ears and Escalante Grand Staircase National Monuments without needing congress to vote.
Historically, if Bishop’s law had been in effect, most of Utah’s national parks and monuments would never have been created including Arches National Park, Bears Ears National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Zion National Park. It’s hard to imagine Utah without these places. The Antiquities Act has been essential in shaping the landscape of the entire American West.
Bishop’s attack on public lands is part of a national Republican Party agenda to privatize America’s public lands. The 2016 Republican Platform calls for undermining the Antiquities Act as part of an agenda to transfer ownership of public lands to state government.