An­tiq­ui­ties Act is a “land grab” for all the right rea­sons

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

Re­pub­li­cans call­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s re­cent national mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions a “fed­eral land grab” are badly mis­taken, un­less they are prais­ing Obama for grab­bing pre­cious, ir­re­place­able re­sources for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

The pres­i­dent was granted the author­ity to des­ig­nate national mon­u­ments through the 1906 An­tiq­ui­ties Act to pro­tect just such nat­u­ral, cul­tural and sci­en­tific won­ders as those found at Bears Ears Buttes in Utah and Gold Butte in Ne­vada.

Ad­vo­cates of pro­tect­ing Bears Ears and Gold Butte for gen­er­a­tions to come have doc­u­mented the clear pub­lic in­ter­est in pro­tect­ing these unique places from de­vel­op­ment.

That Congress has ut­terly failed to do the right thing on be­half of com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing the Na­tive Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, clam­or­ing for these places to be pre­served is cer­tainly not the pres­i­dent’s fault, nor is Obama’s sub­se­quent in­ter­ven­tion a sign that the An­tiq­ui­ties Act has spi­raled out of con­trol.

We hope that Re­pub­li­cans who have won a clear man­date to lead don’t use their power to undo the good that Obama has done when it comes to these and other national mon­u­ments.

It was 1911 when Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Howard Taft used the An­tiq­ui­ties Act to pro­tect the Colorado National Mon­u­ment. The Repub­li­can set aside the 20,500 acres tow­er­ing above Grand Junc­tion to pro­tect its “ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­am­ples of weath­er­ing and ero­sion.”

That “land grab” was an in­cred­i­ble bless­ing to the Grand Val­ley. Not with­out its con­tro­versy, the park has pro­vided a per­ma­nent eco­nomic driver, al­beit a small one, with about 588,000 vis­i­tors a year.

Obama’s use of the An­tiq­ui­ties Act in Colorado we think will also stand the test of time.

Ear­lier this year Obama set aside Browns Canyon in the Ar- kan­sas River Val­ley, pre­serv­ing a head­wa­ters that is not only used for re­cre­ation but that is a valu­able wa­ter source.

For­mer U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Demo­crat, painstak­ingly doc­u­mented the de­sire for the val­ley to re­main wild and open to the pub­lic be­fore Obama stepped in and de­clared it a national mon­u­ment.

At the time, Rep. Doug Lam­born, the Colorado Springs Repub­li­can, railed against the ex­ec­u­tive or­der as the kind of “top-down, big gov­ern­ment land grab by the pres­i­dent that dis­en­fran­chises the con­cerned ci­ti­zens in the Browns Canyon re­gion.”

But even Lam­born’s pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Repub­li­can Rep. Joel He­fley, de­fended Udall’s ef­forts and the pos­si­bil­ity of a pres­i­den­tial or­der.

“I am as con­fi­dent now as I was nearly a decade ago that what emerges from the com­mu­ni­ty­driven process will be a pub­lic space that en­hances Colorado and our way of life — and not just an­other fed­eral des­ig­na­tion,” He­fley wrote in a guest com­men­tary in The Den­ver Post.

And Rep. Scott Tip­ton, a Repub­li­can from Cortez, stood be­hind Obama’s de­ci­sion to des­ig­nate Chim­ney Rock National Mon­u­ment in 2012 af­ter Congress failed to en­act his bill that would pro­tect the place in south­west Colorado that is steeped in Pue­blo In­dian his­tory.

We sup­ported both of those projects un­equiv­o­cally.

It’s time for Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump and Congress to rec­og­nize when a good thing has been done by their op­po­nent, even over their ob­jec­tions, and to move for­ward.

Some places are too spe­cial not to pre­serve for gen­er­a­tions to come, and thank­fully in 1906 Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt had the fore­sight to rec­og­nize that it was the pres­i­dent’s duty to pro­tect just such lands from the crush of progress that would one day jeop­ar­dize them.

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