Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01), Chairman of the House Natural Resources National Park, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee, today raised concern over the potential use of the Antiquities Act to unilaterally create a new national monument on more than 230,000 acres of land in New Mexico--an area more than five times the size of Washington, D
"It's nice that Secretary Salazar held a meeting on Saturday but many would argue that the gathering failed to provide sufficient opportunity for real public input and participation from the community, stakeholders, and local leaders. This is not the appropriate course that should be taken when considering new policies and land designations that affect so many livelihoods," said Congressman Bishop.
Reports suggest that Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar is exploring options to establish a new national monument in the Rio Grande del Norte area of New Mexico. He is said to be considering recommending the use of the controversial Antiquities Act, which gives the President executive fiat to unilaterally designate areas as national monuments whether there is public support for them or not. This tool has often been considered a way to lock up federal land and resources behind Congress' back. In 1996, President Bill Clinton used the Antiquities Act to designate nearly 1.9 million acres as the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, locking up one of the largest known coal fields in the United States.
"Chairman Bingaman's bill to designate this area failed to advance in his own Democrat-controlled Senate the past two sessions of Congress. This lack of action and urgency raises the question that the area is not immediately threatened or endangered". Bishop added. "I do not oppose national monuments, but there is a necessary and appropriate course that must be taken. First and foremost, it is imperative that the impetus for their establishment is not the result of special interest group pressure, but rather strong consensus from the state, local communities, residents, and stakeholders. Second, that designations adhere to the original intent of the Antiquities Act. Finally, that Congress, through the regular legislative process, determine the ultimate designations for the federal lands in question. I remained concerned that the Administration is using the Antiquities Act to not only circumvent Congress, but also forgo addressing the concerns of those who stand to be affected by this the most.