U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today voted for the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation (EPIC) of National Monuments Act (H.R. 1459) that would require public participation before a presidentially-declared national monument is made official. Walden is an original co-sponsor of the bill, which passed the House today.
"Land-use decisions should be made in the sunshine with full input from affected citizens like farmers and ranchers. The President shouldn't be able to lock up thousands of acres of federal land to all productive uses with just the stroke of his pen and no say from the American people. That's why I've worked for a long time to reform the Antiquities Act to stop its worst abuses. This common-sense bill would ensure that future national monuments are created with public participation, not behind closed doors at the White House," Walden said.
Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the President can designate a national monument unilaterally, without public input. This was originally intended to be used in emergency situations to protect important historic sites and sites of scientific value from an imminent threat. Since the law passed over a century ago, though, excessive use of the Antiquities Act has grown under presidents of both parties. Oregon's Second District has faced threats to create national monuments unilaterally from the Clinton and Obama Administrations, efforts Walden has opposed.
The EPIC Act would classify national monument declarations by the President as a "major federal action," which would trigger a process that requires transparency and input from local communities. It would allow temporary, small "emergency" designations if there is an imminent threat to a historic site. It would also prevent the inclusion of private property in monument decisions without prior approval from property owners.