Bill reinforces that only Congress can alter national monuments
Washington, D.C. — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet with a group of more than 100 Democratic Members of Congress today reintroduced legislation to protect America’s treasured national monuments against the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on public lands. The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2019 reinforces Congress’ clear intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation.
The ANTIQUITIES Act comes in response to President Trump’s attempt to eliminate 2 million acres of protections for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history. Trump took this action despite the fact that Americans across the country overwhelmingly voiced support for keeping the monuments intact. During the administration’s public comment process, over 99 percent of the 2.8 million comments received were in favor of maintaining existing protections for our national monuments.
"The designation of Bears Ears National Monument protected sacred land, gave local tribes a voice in its management, and reflected the wishes of communities whose cultures and economies are grounded in this area. The President's attempts to remove protections for Bears Ears and other national monuments is unprecedented and a shameful addition to our nation's long and tragic history of broken promises to our tribes," Bennet said. "With my colleagues, I will work to advance this bill to enhance protections for Bears Ears, Canyons of the Ancients, and other existing national monuments - putting an end to this administration's continuous attempts to tear down our country's legacy of protecting wild and sacred places."
The question of the validity of these reductions is now being challenged in court. Bennet joined Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and over 100 other Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief, reaffirming that only Congress has this power to change or alter monuments.
National monuments and America’s protected public lands help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, which sustains 7.6 million jobs and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue. In Colorado alone, the outdoor recreation economy is responsible for 511,000 direct jobs, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
S. 367, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019, protects and enhances national monuments with three main provisions:
- It officially declares Congress’ support for the 52 national monuments established by presidents in both parties between January 1996 and October 2018 under their authority established by the Antiquities Act of 1906.
- It reinforces that existing law clearly states that presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished, except by an act of Congress.
- It further enhances protections for the presidentially designated national monuments by 1) requiring that they be surveyed, mapped and that management plans be completed in two years—in the same manner as congressionally designated national monuments—and 2) that they receive additional resources to ensure that they will continue to meet their full potential of providing unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to their states and to the nation.
In Colorado, Browns Canyon National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and Chimney Rock National Monument would all receive the Congressional support and enhanced protections stated above. The bill also expands protection for the Bears Ears National Monument to over 1.9 million acres, directing that it be composed of the lands identified in the Bears Ears Tribal Coalition’s original proposal. This legislation preserves opportunities for hunting, tourism, scientific research, conservation, and cultural uses in national monuments and ensures they are properly resourced.
Groups supporting the legislation include the National Parks Conservation Association, Conservation Lands Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, League of Conservation Voters, EarthJustice, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Grand Canyon Trust and the Bears Ears Coalition Tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni).