Obama des­ig­nates 2 na­tional mon­u­ments, adds to record.

Adds to record of block­ing off land from de­vel­op­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

In yet an­other shot at the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, Pres­i­dent Obama on Wed­nes­day des­ig­nated about 1.6 mil­lion acres of West­ern land as na­tional mon­u­ments, cor­don­ing off the mas­sive ar­eas from en­ergy de­vel­op­ment while vow­ing that his suc­ces­sor can’t re­verse his ac­tions.

The pres­i­dent des­ig­nated about 1.35 mil­lion acres in Utah as the Bears Ears Na­tional Mon­u­ment, set­ting aside land that Amer­i­can In­dian tribes say con­tains sa­cred cul­tural and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites. He also es­tab­lished a com­mis­sion com­prised of the fed­eral Agri­cul­ture and In­te­rior de­part­ments that, in con­junc­tion with tribes, will over­see the land.

Mr. Obama also claimed 300,000 acres in Clark County, Ne­vada, as the Gold Butte Na­tional Mon­u­ment. The two des­ig­na­tions add to Mr. Obama’s record­set­ting use of na­tional mon­u­ments and give more fuel to de­trac­tors who say he is try­ing to block do­mes­tic en­ergy pro­duc­tion be­fore Mr. Trump as­sumes the pres­i­dency.

“To­day, I am des­ig­nat­ing two new na­tional mon­u­ments in the desert land­scapes of south­east­ern Utah and south­ern Ne­vada to pro­tect some of our coun­try’s most im­por­tant cul­tural trea­sures, in­clud­ing abun­dant rock art, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites and lands con­sid­ered sa­cred by Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes,” the pres­i­dent said in a state­ment.

“To­day’s ac­tions will help pro­tect this cul­tural legacy and will en­sure that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions are able to en­joy and ap­pre­ci­ate these scenic and historic land­scapes,” he said.

The moves drew the ire of Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers and other crit­ics who long have ac­cused Mr. Obama of abus­ing his author­ity un­der the An­tiq­ui­ties Act to des­ig­nate mon­u­ments, ar­gu­ing that he is stretch­ing the bounds of power to stop fos­sil fuel ex­plo­ration.

Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, chair­man of the House Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee, said he and other Repub­li­cans will work tire­lessly to re­verse the Bears Ears des­ig­na­tion.

“Mr. Pres­i­dent, I want you to know that we are sad­dened by this abuse of the An­tiq­ui­ties Act. It is sad that this en­tire process has been done in se­crecy and in shad­ows,” he said. “And Mr. Pres­i­dent, I want you to know as Utahns, we will use ev­ery tool at our dis­posal to do the right thing — whether it be leg­isla­tive ac­tion, ju­di­cial ac­tion, even ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion — be­cause what we have seen so far is a poor pro­ce­dure. It’s a poor pol­icy and it re­flects poorly on your legacy. As Utahns, we will fight to right this wrong.”

But Mr. Obama seems to have stopped short of his orig­i­nal plans. In a joint state­ment Wed­nes­day evening, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Ari­zona Repub­li­cans, blasted the fed­eral land grab but ex­pressed grat­i­tude that their state wasn’t in­cluded.

“Pres­i­dent Obama seems to have heard the mes­sage that Ari­zo­nans are not on board with plans for Wash­ing­ton to lock up an­other 1.7 mil­lion acres in our state. As frus­trat­ing as it is to see fed­eral land grabs in Utah and Ne­vada to­day, we are en­cour­aged that the ad­min­is­tra­tion does not ap­pear to be mov­ing to­ward an­other na­tional mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tion in Ari­zona at this time,” the two sen­a­tors said.

Out­go­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, say Wed­nes­day’s ac­tions ce­ment Mr. Obama’s legacy as an en­vi­ron­men­tal cham­pion.

“Pres­i­dent Obama is a coura­geous man. I could not be more grate­ful to him and his team for work­ing with me to make this hap­pen, and for ev­ery­thing he has done to pro­tect public lands in Ne­vada,” Mr. Reid said in a state­ment. “By des­ig­nat­ing Gold Butte a na­tional mon­u­ment, Pres­i­dent Obama has shown once again why he is one of the great­est en­vi­ron­men­tal pres­i­dents in Amer­i­can his­tory.”

Mr. Obama has set a record for the amount of land and wa­ter la­beled na­tional mon­u­ments. Be­fore Wed­nes­day’s des­ig­na­tions, he had ear­marked at least 553 mil­lion acres of land and wa­ter.

Mr. Obama’s un­prece­dented use of na­tional mon­u­ments could spur a land­mark le­gal fight once Mr. Trump as­sumes of­fice.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have en­cour­aged Mr. Trump to re­voke some of his pre­de­ces­sor’s mon­u­ments, but no U.S. pres­i­dent has taken such ac­tion. There is no clear le­gal an­swer on whether Mr. Trump would have the author­ity to re­move a des­ig­na­tion.

Some le­gal schol­ars have said the ques­tion ul­ti­mately would end up be­fore the Supreme Court if Mr. Trump pressed the case.

The An­tiq­ui­ties Act, en­acted in 1906, ex­plic­itly gives a pres­i­dent power to des­ig­nate a mon­u­ment but does not men­tion re­mov­ing a des­ig­na­tion. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion thinks Mr. Trump would be pow­er­less to act.

“We do not see that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has the author­ity to do this,” Christy Gold­fuss, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at the White House Coun­cil on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity, told re­porters on a con­fer­ence call Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Obama had set a record for the amount of land and wa­ter la­beled na­tional mon­u­ments even be­fore des­ig­nat­ing about 1.35 mil­lion acres in Utah and 300,000 acres in Ne­vada on Wed­nes­day. No pres­i­dent has ever re­moved such a des­ig­na­tion.

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