Quantcast
Climate
White Sands National Monument. Howard Ignatius / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Congress Aims Killing Blow at Public Lands

Rep. Rob Bishop is moving legislation that would radically cut down the scope of the Antiquities Act, effectively blocking new protections of national monument lands.

Bishop's bill—in an Orwellian flourish, titled the "National Monument Creation and Protection Act"—would bar the Antiquities Act from being used to protect landmarks, prehistoric structures and objects of "scientific interest," switching the law's scope to the vague term "object or objects of antiquity."


Court rulings and more than a century of presidential practice have established that the Antiquities Act is broad and can protect large natural landscapes. Reducing its scope to the narrow yet vague and infinitely litigable terms Bishop proposes would fulfill a longstanding goal of the anti-public lands fringe and severely undermine the law.

Among other things, Bishop is infamous for remarking about Native American rock art at Nevada's Basin and Range National Monument, "Ah, bullcrap. That's not an antiquity." It's not hard to see the potential damage done by reshaping a bedrock conservation law in this man's image. If thousand-year-old art—not to mention the Grand Canyon itself, whose onetime monument status led to a legal ruling that the Antiquities Act could be applied to large natural landscapes—isn't an "antiquity," then what would he deem worth saving?

Based on past remarks, Rep. Rob Bishop might not consider the rock art at Basin and Range National Monument (Nevada) a worthy criterion for Antiquities Act protection.Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

Bishop's bill would also outlaw monuments beyond a certain acreage, allow future presidents to slash existing monuments down to a fraction of their size, and completely end the practice of setting aside marine habitat under monument status.

"On the heels of [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke's secret report to illegally roll back national monument protections across the country, [House Natural Resources Committee] Chairman Bishop has one-upped him by trying once again to gut the law that protected these treasures in the first place," said Dan Hartinger, deputy director for parks & public lands defense at The Wilderness Society. "It seems as though they're in some perverse contest to see who can author the most radical proposal to sell out our public lands to development."

Antiquities Act Has Been a Long-Running, Bipartisan Success

Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act authorizes presidents to protect important archaeological, historic and scientific resources on public lands under the designation "national monument." It has been used on a bipartisan basis by almost every president, a method supported by some 90 percent of voters that forms the backbone of our National Park System.

Despite its popularity and proven track record, in the spring of 2017, President Trump signed an executive order launching a "review" of every large national monument established under the Antiquities Act since the beginning of 1996. It was a move transparently spurred by extreme members of Congress trying to shrink boundaries and reduce protections in their respective states.

In September, media outlets reported that Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's recommendations based on that review featured changes to 10 national monument lands, including shrinking Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou.

Bishop's law is the natural next step, a killing blow aimed at the very foundation of the American public lands tradition. The goal is to not only roll back what has been protected in the past, but to prevent any and all protections in the future.

We don't know precisely what path this bill will take, but should it come to a full House vote, we will call on Wilderness Society supporters to mobilize and let their members of Congress know Bishop's proposal is totally unacceptable.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Food
Workers collect salt crystals on Aug. 22 at Aigues-Mortes where the salt pans cover 10,000 hectares. PASCAL GUYOT / AFP / Getty Images

90% of Table Salt Is Contaminated With Mircroplastics

By Julia Conley

A year after researchers at a New York university discovered microplastics present in sea salt thanks to widespread plastic pollution, researchers in South Korea set out to find out how pervasive the problem is—and found that 90 percent of salt brands commonly used in homes around the world contain the tiny pieces of plastic.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Japan's cherry blossoms are unexpectedly blooming this autumn. Coniferconifer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cherry Blossoms are Blooming Across Japan. It's October.

Each year, Japan's iconic cherry blossoms herald the arrival of spring. But after a bout of extreme weather, blooms are being reported several months early.

The Japanese weather site Weathernews said it had received more than 350 reports of blossoms throughout the country. The flowers usually appear in March or April.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Bloede Dam removal in process. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services / YouTube

4 Exciting Dam-Removal Projects to Watch

By Tara Lohan

For much of the 20th century humans got really good at dam building. Dams—embraced for their flood protection, water storage and electricity generation—drove industry, built cities and helped turn deserts into farms. The United States alone has now amassed more than 90,000 dams, half of which are 25 feet tall or greater.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
FoodPrint helps identify local and seasonal produce with its Seasonal Food Guide. FoodPrint / Facebook

Find Out Your 'Foodprint': New Website Helps You Shop, Cook and Eat More Sustainably

Two days after World Food Day, an innovative nonprofit has launched a website to help you reduce the environmental impact of the food you eat.

FoodPrint, designed by GRACE Communications Foundation, was created to educate consumers about everything that goes into common food items, from farm to fridge, so that they can make sustainable choices.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified Aug. 1 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Acting EPA Head Is Still Unconfirmed After 100+ Days in Position

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), might continue to oversee the office without Senate confirmation until President Trump's term is over, according to reports from Bloomberg and the Huffington Post.

The former coal lobbyist has been the temporary EPA boss for more than 100 days ever since his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned in July after a long list of ethics scandals.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Volunteers prepare to take flow measurements on Muddy Creek. Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps / CC BY-ND

How Monitoring Local Water Supplies Can Build Community

By John M. Carroll

Water insecurity is a touchstone for 2018. Our planet isn't running out of water, but various kinds of mismanagement have led to local water crises across the planet, directly threatening millions of people.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Inti St Clair / Getty Images

When It Comes to Sustainability, We’re a Society of Distracted Drivers

By Richard Heinberg

Driving is dangerous. In fact, it's about the riskiest activity most of us engage in routinely. It requires one's full attention—and even then, things can sometimes go horribly awry. The brakes fail. Weather turns roads to ice. A driver in the oncoming lane falls asleep. Tragedy ensues. But if we're asleep at the wheel, the likelihood of calamity skyrockets. That's why distracted driving is legally discouraged: no cell phones, no reading newspapers or books, no hanky-panky with the front-seat passenger. If you're caught, there's a hefty fine.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Last month's temperatures across land and sea tied with 2017 as the fourth highest for September in the 1880-2018 record. NOAA

2018 Likely to Rank as Fourth-Hottest Year on Record

After a summer of record-breaking heatwaves and devastating wildfires, 2018 is shaping up to be one of the planet's hottest years in recorded history.

From January through September, the average global temperature was 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 57.5°F, making it the fourth warmest year-to-date on record, and only 0.43°F lower than the record-high set in 2016 for the same period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA) announced Wednesday. NOAA's global temperature dataset record dates back to 1880.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!