June 25, 2016
OP-ED: Antiquities Act Abuse Heads East
By Rep. Rob Bishop
Some say cultural trends start on the West Coast and make their way East, but one trend moving eastward is bad news for New Englanders.
In my home state of Utah, the federal government owns 65 percent of the land. That is a problem. In the waning days of his administration, President Clinton compounded the problem by mandating the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. With virtually no local support, he locked up 1.7 million acres of Utah, an area larger than some states.
This monument designation was an abuse of the Antiquities Act. Passed in 1906, the Antiquities Act was originally intended for presidents to quickly prevent looting of archaeological sites. The executive power exercised under the Antiquities Act has grown far beyond the original purpose.
I’m not against national monuments. In fact, I’m trying to create a national monument in Utah but in the right way — legislatively through Congress. The problem today is that the president can create monuments without any local input.
After the designation of the Grand Staircase Monument in Utah, the local economy took a major blow. Public education suffered as Clinton had no idea that thousands of acres of Utah land, set aside to support schools, were locked up in the designation. Two decades later, that issue has still yet to be fully resolved. Ranching families suffered as fewer livestock were allowed to graze on the monument land.
The same story threads throughout the West, most recently in February when President Obama — who has designated the highest acreage of national monument land and water of any U.S. president — designated three different national monuments in the California desert. Now the president has his sights set on New England fisheries off the coast of Cape Cod.
Earlier this month I traveled to New Bedford, the highest-grossing commercial fishing port in our country. I spoke with local seafood workers about a potential marine monument designation off the coast. Such a designation would override the current public process of established fisheries management and could be catastrophic to the 1.8 million-plus jobs that fishing creates.
Fishing leaders expressed concern over restricted access, potential job loss, and the damage to the local fishing industry that would obviously follow a marine monument designation. Instead, they want a better public process created under the House-passed Magnusson-Stevens Act, still pending renewal in the Senate.
Our Founding Fathers feared special interests taking away freedom, but today we have another problem: One man in the Oval Office can lock up land and water from the entire nation with the stroke of a pen. This isn’t the original intent of the Antiquities Act.
This issue is not about partisan politics. It’s about freedom and giving a voice to the individual at every level of government. Now 110 years after its inception, an overhaul of the Antiquities Act is long overdue, and we should fight for local input that the current administration ignores and suppresses.
to view article on the Boston Herald.