May 21, 2014
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) issued the following statement today on President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to unilaterally designate nearly 500,000 acres in New Mexico as the Organ Mountain–Desert Peak National Monument:
“The Imperial President strikes again. Instead of working in a transparent, open manner that guarantees public participation, President Obama is taking unilateral action, behind closed-doors to designate hundreds of thousands of acres. Local communities and their local elected leaders oppose this designation because they know it will block job-creating economic activities and increase security risks along the U.S.-Mexico border. Drug smuggling and criminal activity are known challenges in this area and the designation could put the Nation’s border security at risk. This is an issue that deserves careful examination. Time and again we have seen examples of where restrictive federal land management policies have created security risks including lawless corridors where criminals roam outside of law enforcement’s reach.
“During the President’s first-term in office an internal memo was leaked that revealed a scheme to lock-up more than 13 million acres – including this land in New Mexico - with the simple stroke of the President’s pen. The fears and concerns then have now been turned into reality. This is not the way major land-use decisions should be made. That’s why earlier this year, the House passed legislation to protect communities from federal land grabs and require public participation in the process.”
In March, the House passed H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. This bill would require public participation before a presidentially-declared National Monument is made official. Under a century-old law, the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents can unilaterally designate National Monuments without any input or involvement of the American public, community leaders, or elected officials. This authority, enacted prior to the establishment of today’s land management laws, was intended to be used in emergencies to protect historic artifacts and sites of scientific value from imminent threat and “confined to the smallest area” necessary.