Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation (EPIC) of National Monuments Act (H.R. 1459)Status: Passed the House on March 26, 2014 with a bipartisan vote of 222-201. Awaits consideration by the Senate.
Frequently Asked Questions on H.R. 1459:
Q: Why support H.R. 1459?
A: H.R. 1459 ensures that the American people have the opportunity participate in the decisions that impact their communities and that decisions are made in a transparent manner, through utilization of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Major public land-use decisions have been made behind closed-doors, without Congressional approval, and imposed on local communities. There is no legitimate reason for national monument designations to be done in secret without allowing proper input from the people and communities that are directly impacted. Modern presidents have been using the Antiquities Act as a political land-use tool rather than a preservation tool making decisions behind closed-doors and without public involvement for decades.
Q: What is the Antiquities Act of 1906?
A: The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives presidents unilateral authority to designate certain federal lands as national monuments without public input. Congress gave presidents this unilateral authority prior to the establishment of modern day environmental laws in order to protect historically and scientifically significant sites that are under imminent threat. The Antiquities Act is consistently used by presidents for politically motivated land-use decisions often without transparency and local support.
Q: By law, how is a site declared a national monument?
A: Under the authority of the Antiquities Act, presidents have the unilateral authority to create a monument by signing a piece of paper. According to the Antiquities Act and Congressional intent, a national monument can be established if the area meets the following criteria:
Q: What is the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)?
A: NEPA is a federal law that requires federal agencies to evaluate the likely environmental effects of proposed projects on the environment. Public participation is at the core of the NEPA process. NEPA requires agencies to obtain input directly from the general public and those individuals who will be affected by proposed federal actions.
Q: Should presidents be exempted from NEPA regarding monument designations?
A: Most, if not all, major public land-use decisions are statutorily required to go through the NEPA process. National monument designations deserve public input from the people and communities who are directly impacted. To treat presidents differently and allow designations to be done in secret is anything but transparent.
Q: Have presidents ever abused the Antiquities Act?
A: There have been many abuses by presidents using the Antiquities Act. The Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument in Utah designated by President Bill Clinton in September 1996 encompasses 1.9 million acres (slightly larger than the state of Delaware) and was not supported by state and local shareholders as well as the Governor and State congressional delegation. The governor of Utah was given less than 24 hours notice and the announcement was made from the state of Arizona, where such designation helped President Clinton in a tough election year. Alaskans also opposed Carter’s 1978 designation of 15 monuments totaling 43.8 million acres.
Q: With Congressional gridlock shouldn’t presidents be allowed to make these designations?
A: This Congress and past Congresses have acted on many land designations and use a public, transparent process that values input from local and state governments, local residents, and national stakeholders. This Congress alone, the House Natural Resources Committee has considered over 12 bills that included land conservation. President Obama’s most recent designation using the Antiquities Act (expansion of the California Coastal Monument) already passed the House in a bill by Democrat Jared Huffman. Congress can and does work to preserve our land and resources.
Q: Can the president still make emergency designations under H.R. 1459 to protect priceless antiquities from imminent threats?
A: Yes, H.R. 1459 allows for a temporary “emergency” designation (5,000 acres or less for a three-year period) by the president if there is an imminent threat to an American antiquity. After three years, the designation would become permanent if the NEPA process is completed or it is approved by Congress.
Q: Doesn’t NEPA need reform? Why merge the Antiquities Act and NEPA?
A: H.R. 1459 is an immediate solution to an urgent problem. The Antiquities Act has been used as a political tool over the last three decades and abused by both Republican and Democratic presidents. Requiring a NEPA review as part of the Antiquities Act process will ensure public involvement and uphold the original intent of the Antiquities Act. While both the Antiquities Act and NEPA need to updated and modernized we need to take action now to inject transparency & public participation into the process of national monument designations.
Organizations in Support: