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 ()
Sponsored
Trump Watch
Patagonia

Why Trump’s Shrinking of Bears Ears Will Be Reversed

By Eric Biber, Nicholas Bryner, Sean B. Hecht and Mark Squillace

On Dec. 4, President Trump traveled to Utah to sign proclamations downsizing Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly 50 percent. "[S]ome people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington," Trump said. "And guess what? They're wrong."

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
NPR

Environmental Scorecard Highlights Need for Congress to Better Protect Our Environment & Health

Environment America released its 2017 Environmental Scorecard on Thursday, tracking how the U.S. Congress voted on bills that could protect our air, water, landscapes and the health of the planet. Absences count against a member's score.

Environment America's Washington, DC office director Anna Aurilio said the following:

"Sadly, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days, including the need to protect our environment. It shouldn't be this way, it didn't used to be and we're doing all we can to make sure it's not this way in the future.

But, as we release our environmental scorecard for 2017, we want to not only applaud the Democrats who scored 100 percent, but also cheer on those members of both parties who boldly stood up for our planet this year.

Overall, the U.S. Senate had a score of 47 percent and the U.S. House of Representatives scored 45 percent, which does not bode well for our air or water.

The good news is that 139 members from the two branches voted with us 100 percent of the time, which means our planet and our families are represented by a lot of real environmental champs.

And on a number of issues, the environment received bipartisan support. In particular, a cadre of Republicans in the U.S. House supported funding to make public transit available and to ensure that the EPA had enough money to do its job protecting our air and water. In the Senate, limiting methane pollution was the big bipartisan winner.

Unfortunately, with 145 of our federal decision-makers scoring 0 percent, it's obvious we have a lot more work to do to make sure our elected officials represent the majority of Americans who want to see a cleaner, greener, healthier planet for future generations."

Business

Underground Farm Pays Rent in Heat It Supplies to Building Above

Vertical farms have been touted as a way to feed a rapidly urbanizing world population (I've waxed poetic about them myself.) Critics of the trending technology, however, contend that these energy-intensive hubs are too costly and perhaps impractical to maintain.

Sure, the naysayers have a point, but what if vertical farms did more than just feed mouths? In Stockholm, Sweden, the Plantagon CityFarm located in the basement of the iconic DN-Skrapan building in the Kungsholmen district has a whole other purpose besides nourishing the office workers on site—the farm also recycles its heat to warm the offices above.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals

Herd of caribou on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Izuru Toki / Flickr

While America Focuses on Tax Bill, Congress Quietly Tries to Open Arctic Refuge to Oil Drilling

The U.S. Senate has passed a Republican tax-reform package that contains a provision to authorize oil drilling on the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, placing the biological heart of one of our last pristine, untouched places in severe peril.

"This vote to deface and pollute one of the nation's last pristine and untouched wild landscapes is outrageous," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement after the Senate passed the tax package. "The Arctic Refuge drilling provision has no legitimate place in a tax bill, and this backdoor political deal now threatens to destroy the crown jewel of our National Wildlife Refuge System."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

As World Warms, Heart-Breaking Video Shows What It Looks Like When a Polar Bear Starves

By Julia Conley

A video of a starving polar bear led to calls for climate change denialists to confront the real-world effects of global warming this week. Taken by a Canadian conservationist and photographer and posted to social media, the video offered a stark visual of the drastic impacts of climate change that have already begun taking root.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

The Mission of Scott Pruitt: End the EPA as We Know It

By Lukas Ross

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt headed to Congress for testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment. The topic of the hearing? "The Mission of the U.S. EPA."

Since Pruitt has been incredibly sparing in his appearances on Capitol Hill, this is a rare chance to ask hard questions of the most controversial administrator in the history of the EPA.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

Everyday Heroes and Thousands of Firefighters Step Up to SoCal Wildfires

As six large wildfires and several smaller fires burn across Southern California, firefighters, first responders and everyday Americans are stepping up—and risking their lives—to rescue fellow citizens, homes, buildings and animals from the blazes.

About 5,700 firefighters are battling the region's brushfires around the clock in intense heat and grueling conditions.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. pmarkham / Flickr

Lawsuit Launched Against Trump EPA for Approving Fracking Waste Dumping Into Gulf of Mexico

The Center for Biological Diversity filed on Thursday a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for allowing oil companies to dump waste from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico without evaluating the dangers to sea turtles, whales or other imperiled marine life.

In September the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a Clean Water Act permit for new and existing offshore oil and gas platforms operating in federal waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The permit allows oil companies to dump unlimited amounts of waste fluid, including chemicals involved in fracking, into the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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