GOP moves to re­vamp law for mon­u­ments

Yuma Sun - - NEWS -

WASHINGTON — House Repub­li­cans are mov­ing to re­strict the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to pro­tect mil­lions of acres of fed­eral land con­sid­ered his­toric, ge­o­graph­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant or cul­tur­ally im­por­tant.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said pres­i­dents of both par­ties have mis­used the 1906 An­tiq­ui­ties Act to cre­ate over­sized mon­u­ments that hin­der en­ergy devel­op­ment, graz­ing and other uses. Bishop, chair­man of the House Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee, in­tro­duced a bill that would pre­vent pres­i­dents from designating mon­u­ments larger than 85,000 acres and grant veto power to states and lo­cal of­fi­cials for mon­u­ments larger than 10,000 acres.

The GOP-con­trolled re­sources panel ap­proved the bill Wednesday, 23-17, send­ing it to the House.

“No longer would we have to blindly trust any pres­i­dent to do the right thing,” Bishop said, adding that his bill “mod­ern­izes the law to re­store its in­tent, al­low­ing for the pro­tec­tion of ac­tual an­tiq­ui­ties with­out dis­en­fran­chise­ment of lo­cal voices and per­spec­tives.”

The bill comes as In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke has rec­om­mended that four large national mon­u­ments in the West be re­duced in size, po­ten­tially opening hun­dreds of thou­sands of acres to min­ing and log­ging.

Zinke’s rec­om­men­da­tion has prompted an outcry from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, who promised to take the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to court to block the moves.

Rep. Raul Gri­jalva of Ari­zona, se­nior Democrat on the re­sources panel, called Bishop’s bill a tacit ad­mis­sion by the GOP that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump does not have le­gal author­ity to re­duce or abol­ish ex­ist­ing national mon­u­ments.

Gri­jalva charged that the bill was “thrown to­gether at the last minute with only one spe­cial in­ter­est group in mind: the oil and gas in­dus­try.”

The in­te­rior sec­re­tary’s plan would scale back two huge Utah mon­u­ments — Bears Ears and Grand Stair­case-Es­calante — along with Ne­vada’s Gold Butte and Ore­gon’s Cas­cade-Siskiyou. The mon­u­ments en­com­pass more than 3.6 mil­lion acres — an area larger than Con­necti­cut — and were cre­ated by Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions un­der the An­tiq­ui­ties Act.

Zinke’s plan also would al­low log­ging at a newly des­ig­nated mon­u­ment in Maine and urges more graz­ing, hunt­ing and fish­ing at two sites in New Mex­ico. It also calls for a new as­sess­ment of bor­der-safety risks at a mon­u­ment in south­ern New Mex­ico.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups and the out­door recre­ation in­dus­try con­demned the GOP bill.

Patag­o­nia CEO Rose Mar­cario called the bill “dan­ger­ous” and said Bishop “should rec­og­nize the com­mit­tee he leads is meant to pro­tect our nat­u­ral re­sources, not de­stroy them.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

IN THIS APRIL 23, 2016, FILE PHOTO, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, speaks in Salt Lake City. House Repub­li­cans are mov­ing to re­strict the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to pro­tect mil­lions of acres of fed­eral land con­sid­ered his­toric, ge­o­graph­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant or cul­tur­ally im­por­tant.

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