State Officials Urge Local Consultation When Designating National Monuments
Officials from several states called for changes to the national monument designation process at a House subcommittee hearing this week, seeking more consultation with local stakeholders and consideration of their needs.
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing on Tuesday came a week after President Trump signed an executive order that directs the Secretary of the Interior to determine whether large-scale national monument designations took into account adequate public and stakeholder outreach. On Friday, the agency announced that it will begin accepting public comments on its review of national monuments next week.
“The intent behind the Antiquities Act is laudable and a great deal of good has been accomplished nationwide through its exercise over the last 110 years,” Director of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office Kathleen Clarke wrote in prepared testimony to the House committee. “But there should be limits upon the nature of the objects that may be protected, and the size of monuments should be limited to that which allows optimal protections for those objects.”
“The creation of these huge monuments has unnecessarily had significant and negative impacts upon the traditional uses of these lands and upon the lives and livelihoods of the local populations that have stewarded the lands for generations,” she continued. Clarke is the former head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the president to designate federal lands as national monuments based on their historical, cultural, or scientific importance. The law also requires that the designations be confined to the smallest area compatible with their proper care and management.
“These designations were often imposed in spite of local opposition, without consultation with Congress, or the state or local government’s [a]ffected, and without regard for the economic damage these designations have had on surrounding communities,” Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said.
In his testimony, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said President Obama’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in the northern part of his state met with heavy local opposition.
“In 2015, three local communities held non-binding referendums to measure the support for a National Park in the area. All three of these communities voted overwhelmingly against such as designation,” LePage said.
“I believe the law should be amended to require local approval before the President can unilaterally designate a National Monument,” LePage said. “This support should include approvals from the state’s governor and legislature.”