Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Congressman Tom Emmer

Representing the 6th District of Minnesota

President Trump Signs Order to Review Massive Land Grabs, Western Caucus Members Cheer

April 26, 2017
Press Release

 (Courtesy of the Congressional Western Caucus)

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar D.D.S. (AZ-04), Chief Defense and Interior Officer Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02), Chairman Emeritus Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-02), Vice Chairman for Indian Affairs and Oceans Rep. Don Young (AK-At Large), Chairman Emeritus Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01) and Western Caucus members Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-01), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-06), Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Rep. Aumua Amata (American Samoa-At Large), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (ID-01) issued the following statements after President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order requiring Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for a review of the 1906 Antiquities Act:

Chairman Gosar said, “After enduring the Obama Administration’s tyrannical land grabs, I am elated by President Trump’s action to require a formal review of misguided monument declarations over the past 20 years that have restricted massive swaths of land and water throughout the country. President Obama’s abuse of a century-old law allowed one man to unilaterally lock up more than 550 million acres with the stroke of a pen. Local stakeholders deserve to have a voice in the land management process and I am pleased they will finally be included in the conversation. I applaud President Trump and look forward to working closely with Secretary Zinke during this review. However, this fight won’t be over and communities won’t be safe until Congress reforms the antiquated Antiquities Act.”

“Over the years, the original intent of the Antiquities Act has morphed well beyond the original intent of the Act, which was to preserve the ‘smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’. These land grabs occur with no input from Congress or the local communities most impacted by the designations. It’s an emotional issue to communities around the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, as it affects and threatens their ways of life. That’s why I believe this Executive Order asking for a review of National Monuments is both a healthy and necessary process,” said Congressman Stewart. “Utahns deserve a collaborative land management process that ensures local residents have a seat at the table.”

“The last several Presidents have abused the Antiquities Act by creating expansive monuments that have disregarded input from local communities and governments who are affected the most by these designations. New Mexicans, and people across the nation, should be able to access federal lands for recreation, hunting, grazing, and the economic opportunity that comes with it. We all share the common goal of preserving the natural beauty we are blessed to have in the West, but responsible conservation has to consider how these actions affect the surrounding communities and local economies,” said Congressman Pearce. “I support today’s Executive Order that puts surrounding communities back in the driver’s seat by calling for an appropriate review of previously designated monuments.”

Congressman Young said, “For too long, we’ve seen the crippling impacts associated with the monument designation process, all with little to no consultation or support of those that live in or rely upon the areas. I welcome today’s actions and remain committed to reforming the outdated monument designation process from a top down executive mandate to a locally driven, bottom-up approach. The days of Presidents unilaterally closing off thousands of acres of land or water must change.”

“Today’s action sends the powerful message that communities will no longer take a back seat to out-of-state special interest groups. I’m pleased to see President Trump recognize long-standing abuses of the Antiquities Act. It was created with noble intent and for limited purposes, but has been hijacked to set aside increasingly large and restricted areas of land without public input,” stated Congressman Bishop. “I applaud the Trump administration’s clear commitment to do what past administrations refused to do, actually talk to real people who live in the area. This EO is not the end of the story, we will work the Trump administration and our communities to get this right.”

Speaker Ryan said, “The Antiquities Act is a century-old law that has been hijacked by executive overreach in recent years. While designating monuments is a noble goal, this law, like many others, has strayed far from its original purpose. Presidents have used the law to lock up thousands of acres of lands and water with the stroke of a pen, disregarding the needs and concerns of local communities. I comment the Trump administration for stopping this cycle of executive abuse and beginning a review of past designations.”

“Government must still retain the authority to preserve our nation’s most treasured sites, but that authority was clearly abused by the Obama Administration when it restricted over 550 million acres in 34 national monuments under the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act was not intended to restrict state and local usage of such a large amount of territory. This abuse of federal authority and the subsequent disruption of the wellbeing of communities and citizens is the exact kind of behavior from Washington that the American people are sick of. Local control is not only better policy; it respects the American people who can get along just fine without a distant government controlling all the details of their lives,” said Majority Leader McCarthy. “President Trump and House Republicans will work together to offer a defense against future executive overreach and bring a necessary dose of commonsense to public land policy.”

Congressman Emmer said, “I am pleased to see President Trump call for a review of the Antiquities Act in this morning’s executive order,” said Emmer. “Under the Obama Administration, we witnessed unilateral land grabs by the executive without Congressional consent. My home state of Minnesota was hit with similar last minute actions that closed off nearly a quarter million acres of land, which would stunt our state's economic growth. I look forward to the results of the review to indicate what next steps may be necessary.”

“President Obama’s time in office led to more than 554,000,000 acres of land being declared as national monuments, practically the definition of a land grab. While the Antiquities Act serves a purpose, it has been abused by previous presidents and I’m glad to see President Trump sign an executive order to review the land taken in this drastic overreach of power,” remarked Congressman Mullin.

Aumua Amata said, “I want to applaud President Trump for the executive order he signed today to review the Antiquities Act, which regulates national marine monument designations. The national marine monuments that have been instituted in the Western Pacific have closed off vast swaths of the ocean that our people have fished for over a millennium. I look forward to the actions that will be taken upon the completion of the review. It is essential that our fishing fleet in American Samoa has access to these traditional fishing grounds and this is the first step in restoring that access for our people.”

"I fully support the President’s decision to review national monuments that had been recklessly expanded under the Obama Administration. Downsizing many of these monuments will help the Department of Interior to better manage our federal lands. It is time to reform the Antiquities Act and return the power to designate and expand national monuments back to Congress,” remarked Congressman LaMalfa.

Congressman Lamborn said, “The review of the monuments designated under the Antiquities Act is both warranted and necessary. Today’s executive order signifies a shift in power from the federal government to the local communities who support these monuments and deserve to have a voice in the process. As the President and Secretary Zinke review the monuments in Colorado, I urge them to consider multi-user groups and recreation, community outreach, and the ability to fund and manage these important lands.”

“Unilaterally locking up millions of acres of land for political gain was not the original intent of the Antiquities Act. Imposing such designations without any kind of local support from those who will bear the burden is an abuse of power. I strongly support President Trump’s order to review the gross misuse of such an outdated law. The American people – especially Utahns – deserve better than to have their livelihoods turned upside down with the stroke of a pen,” remarked Congressman Chaffetz.

Congressman Labrador stated, “I am pleased by President Trump’s decision to review the Antiquities Act, which was used by his predecessors to designate national monuments without input from Congress or local communities.  That’s why, in the last Congress, I introduced the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, which would require Congressional approval and public input before restricting access to public lands in a proposed monument.  When it comes to land in Idaho, Idahoans know best, and we appreciate a President who understands that.  We need a legislative fix, and I look forward to working with President Trump on this issue.” 

Background:

(Courtesy of the White House)

Today’s Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior to review monuments designated using the Antiquities Act since January 1, 1996, that are in excess of 100,000 acres, or that were expanded without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders. The order does not strip any monument of a designation and does not loosen any environmental or conservation regulations on any land or marine areas.

Further, the Executive Order:

  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct the above-mentioned review.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to make recommendation to the President on whether a monument should be rescinded or resized.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to consult and coordinate with, as appropriate, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of any other executive departments or agencies concerned with areas designated under the Act.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to consult and coordinate with the Governors of States affected by monument designations or other relevant officials of affected State, Tribal, and local
  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to provide an interim report to the President within 45 days of the date of the
  • Directs the Secretary of the Interior to provide a final report to the President within 120 days of the date of the order.

Text of the Executive Order can be found HERE.

(Courtesy of the Congressional Western Caucus)

The president’s ability to set aside land for monuments and national parks comes from the outdated Antiquities Act of 1906, which was originally intended to protect prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on federal lands in the West. More than one hundred years later, the original intent of this law, which included language to limit these designations to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects,” has been significantly abused. Compared to early application of the Antiquities Act, where the average size of a national monument was merely 422 acres, in recent years it became commonplace for a monument to exceed a million acres in size.

President Obama exceeded the intent of the Antiquities Act more than any other president in the history of this nation. With designation of the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the 300,000 acre Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, President Obama designated or expanded 34 national monuments, more than any other president in history. These unilateral declarations locked-up 554,590,000 million acres of land and water.

National monument designations under the Antiquities Act typically have significant consequences that negatively affect grazing rights, water rights, wildfire prevention and other land management activities. These declarations also result in some of the most restrictive land-use regulations possible and also greatly impact hunting, fishing, OHV and other recreational activities.

Unilateral designations that circumvent Congress typically result in devastating consequences for rural America and our future economic prosperity. For every new acre claimed for the federal government, there is an acre of private land lost. Such actions exacerbate challenges for local communities to fund things like education and infrastructure as lands that are added to the federal rolls can no longer be taxed.