The American Farm Bureau Federation spearheaded a coalition of 18 other groups with vital interests in protecting the multiple uses of the nation’s public lands, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and American Sheep Industry (ASI), urging President-elect Donald Trump to work with Congress to pass legislation to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments.
According to a letter to Trump, the coalition stated that the designation of lands as national monuments or similar designation without input from communities impacted by the decision “can lead, and in fact has led, to devastating reductions in economic activity and the loss of jobs in resource-dependent communities.”
“Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has used the authority provided by the Antiquities Act to lock up millions of acres of land from multiple-use by designating land as national monuments,” the coalition letter said. “In fact, President Obama has proclaimed more new national monuments than any other president in U.S. history. “
The Antiquities Act of 1906 was enacted as a response to concerns over theft from and destruction of archaeological sites and was designed to provide an expeditious means to protect federal lands and resources. The act requires the president to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
“The size and magnitude of recent monument designations grossly fail to meet the intent of Congress and objective of the law,” the letter said. The coalition told Trump that landowners, grazing permitees, loggers, forest products companies, miners and local governments should be fully involved as affected partners in any process to execute federal land use designations that restrict public use and access.
“The lack of local or congressional input and approval of a president’s monument designation often generates significant controversy and economic hardship at the local level,” the coalition stated. “Unfortunately, the law does not provide explicit requirements for the president to consult with local and state authorities. The detrimental effects of a monument designation frequently cause residents, elected state and county officials, and local stakeholders who have major interests in the lands to push Congress for reform.”
Specifically, the groups said they would work toward congressional revisions of the Antiquities Act to require that any presidential national monument proclamation be subject to congressional approval and limited to no more than 5,000 acres, per the original intent of the act. Meanwhile, the Obama administration locked up more than 5.6 million acres of (non-aquatic) land through use of the Antiquities Act to designate or expand additional monuments.
“We strongly oppose the ongoing misuse of the Antiquities Act by the executive branch and request your administration to work swiftly to resolve these conflicts and work with Congress to pass legislation to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments,” the coalition told Trump. “Such reform will ensure that the will of local communities are respected and true American antiquities can be protected.”