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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

GOP seeks veto for monument designations

WASHINGTON — Citing state sovereignty and economic hardship, Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they wanted to give Congress the authority to veto presidents’ national monument designations, a power used by nearly every executive since Theodore Roosevelt.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 has led to the designations of 136 national monuments, a list that includes the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest in Arizona and the Statue of Liberty in New York.

But the act has long has been a flash point in Western states, where some residents and officials resent the federal government’s level of involvement in land management.

“I don’t oppose public lands,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Tuesday at a House of Representatives Natural Resources subcommittee hearing. “I simply oppose efforts by an out-of-touch administration to forcibly lock up public lands without congressional oversight.”

Bills by Labrador; Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; and Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., would “prohibit the further extension or establishment of national monuments” in those states, “except by express authorization of Congress.”

Rep. Wally Herger, a Republican whose Northern California district contains a “significant amount” of federal land, made the economic argument for his bill, which would require congressional approval of a national monument in any state.

“In the face of severe economic challenges, we need to reform crippling government policies and regulations so that local communities can utilize their natural resources and prosper,” he said.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said her bill was about limiting the size and reach of government. Her legislation would require the approval of state legislatures and governors for the president to designate a national monument.

“Considering the size of the federal government’s existing real estate portfolio, there is no need to continue unilaterally acquiring new lands without any regard to states’ rights or economies,” Foxx said.

Environmentalists said the effort was a one-sided conversation focused on exploiting natural resources.

“We’re only talking about resource extraction, we’re not talking about conservation,” said Bobby McEnaney, a land policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group. “I think we can respect the idea that Westerners have a say in these lands, but that’s not what these bills do. They favor one use of the land over other uses.”

McEnaney, an Idaho native, said that while mining, timber, oil and gas might generate jobs in the short term, people moved to Western states “for their natural beauty, not for oil rigs.”

“There’s a lot of angst about the Antiquities Act,” he said. “But every time monuments have been declared, the long-term impacts have proved quite positive.”

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