Merkley, Wyden Act to Protect America’s National Monuments from Unlawful Attacks

Thunderbolt Cave, Lava Beds National Monument.

Merkley, Wyden Join Colleagues to Introduce ANTIQUITIES Act to Protect America’s National Monuments from Unlawful Attacks

February 10, 2019Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined more than 100 Democratic Members of Congress to introduce legislation protecting 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 Trump administration’s reckless attack on the future of National Monuments throughout our nation is both legally dubious and unprecedented in American history,” Merkley said. “This legislation would protect national treasures here in Oregon, as well as other public lands across the nation that are deeply cherished by the American people.”

“This administration’s unwarranted attacks on our treasured places threaten our natural heritage and recreation economy in Oregon and nationwide,” Wyden said. “Congress must make it as clear as Crater Lake that public lands belong in public hands.”

The ANTIQUITIES Act comes in response to President Trump’s attempt to eliminate millions of acres protected by national monuments—the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history. In addition to threatening protections for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, the administration considered shrinking Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, one of the most ecologically unique and diverse ecosystems in the world. 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 question of the validity of these reductions is now being challenged in court. Merkley, Wyden, and 116 other members of Congress filed 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 Oregon alone, the $16.4 billion outdoor recreation economy employs 172,000 people.

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;

o    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

o    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.

Additional co-sponsors of the ANTIQUITIES Act include U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA) Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), along with 75 other members of the House of Representatives.

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).

A copy of the ANTIQUITIES Act can be found here.

Press release provided from the office of US Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.