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Proposed National Monument Designations Result in Broadside Attack on the Antiquities Act of 1906
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com - Antiquities Act of 1906, Interior Department, National Landscape Conservation System, Ken Salazar
Contributed By: The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Department of Public Policy
Website: http://www.nthp.org

An internal Interior department document leaked last week by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) identifies 14 new national monuments under consideration by the Obama administration for inclusion as part of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) through proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The proposed list created a flap with member s of the Utah congressional delegation, which forced Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to offer assurances to the delegation that the monuments were only under consideration. However, those assurances were not enough to prevent Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) from offering a bill (S. 3016) prohibiting “he further extension or establishment of national monuments in Utah except by express authorization of Congress.”The Antiquities Act of 1906 currently gives the president authority to declare new national monuments without congressional approval in order to protect threatened cultural and natural resources, with the exception of Wyoming and Alaska. Utah representatives, still upset over President Clinton's 1996 decision to create the 1.7-million-acre Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, plan to use the Bennett legislation to put similar restrictions in place in their state.

However, the Interior Department document that was posted on Rep. Bishop’s website at http://robbishop.house.gov/UploadedFiles/states_for_designation.pdf noted that “further evaluations should be completed prior to any final decision, including an assessment of public and Congressional support” before any National Monument designations are made.

Despite those written assurances about the proposed monuments, the continuing controversy over the presidential proclamation process ignited a broader attack on the Antiquities Act by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which stated in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that Congress should limit the authority of the president in designating national monuments. The Chamber’s letter stated that "the Act was designed to protect small areas of land and specific items of archaeological, scientific, or historic importance" and “it instructs the President to confine any designations 'to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.'" In addition, the Chamber stated that the Antiquities Act provisions already limiting presidential authority in Wyoming and Alaska should be made national.

Reprinted by permission of the Public Policy Department of the National Trust

 


Keywords: Antiquities Act of 1906, Interior Department, National Landscape Conservation System, Ken Salazar

Posted: March 4, 2010
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