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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act was designed to protect federal lands and resources quickly, and Presidents have proclaimed a total of 137 monuments. Congress has modified many of these proclamations and has abolished some monuments. Congress also has created monuments under its own authority.

Presidential establishment of monuments sometimes has been contentious—for example, President Franklin Roosevelt’s creation of the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming (1943); President Carter’s massive Alaskan withdrawals (1978); and President Clinton’s establishment of 19 monuments and enlargement of three others (1996-2001). President Obama’s interest in possible monument designations, and designation of nine national monuments, have renewed controversy over the Antiquities Act. However, the President cited support for his monument designations, some of which had been proposed for protective designations by legislation.

Issues have included the size of the areas and types of resources protected; the effects of monument designation on land uses; the level and types of threats to the areas; the inclusion of nonfederal lands within monument boundaries; the act’s limited process compared with the public participation and environmental review aspects of other laws; and the agency managing the monument.

Opponents have sought to revoke or limit the President’s authority to proclaim monuments. The 113
th Congress is currently considering proposals to limit the President’s authority to create monuments. Some bills would block monuments from being declared by the President in a particular state—H.R. 1495 (Arizona); H.R. 1439 (Idaho); H.R. 1434 (Montana); H.R. 432 and S. 472 (Nevada); H.R. 1512 (New Mexico); and H.R. 758 (Utah). H.R. 382 would require approval by the pertinent state legislature and governor before a monument was proclaimed by the President. Others—H.R. 250; H.R. 1881 (Section 304) and S. 17 (Section 304); and S. 104— would require congressional approval. S. 104 also would make the President’s authority subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Still another measure—H.R. 1459—would make several changes regarding the President’s authority to establish national monuments. Among other provisions, H.R. 1459 seeks to make the President’s authority subject to NEPA, prohibit more than one proclamation per state per four-year presidential term, and prohibit private property from inclusion in a monument without the written consent of the property owner.

Monument supporters favor the Antiquities Act in its present form, asserting that the public and the courts have upheld monument designations and that many past designations that initially were controversial have come to be supported. They contend that the President needs continued authority to act promptly to protect valuable resources on federal lands from potential threats.

Date of Report: May 13, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41330
Price: $29.95

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