Friday, August 19, 2016

Obama likely to create new monuments if Congress doesn't act -- Sec. Jewell

President Obama will use his executive authority to designate new national monuments if Congress sits on its hands and does nothing, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell indicated in Seattle on Thursday. The Cabinet secretary, a former CEO at Recreational Equipment, Inc., noted that there "are a number of places" around the country where support for preservation is building. "Congress has an opportunity to act," Jewell told "The President is watching and has an opportunity to act if Congress does not. And that's all I'm going to say." Obama acted to create a new San Juan Islands National Monument in 2013. Legislation to create a National Conservation Area in the island archipelago was blocked by conservative House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. The President used his authority under the Antiquities Act, first used in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect the heart of the Olympic Mountains and the Grand Canyon. Both areas are now among America's greatest national parks. Conservative House Republicans have sought to restrict the President's monument-designating powers, although Republicans as well as Democrats in the White House have created monuments. President Herbert Hoover set aside land for a Death Valley National Monument in California, forerunner to another great national park. Obama has designated a big monument in the Pacific Ocean off of Hawaii, large and small monuments protecting natural places, and historic monuments -- the latest honoring the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York that gave birth to the nation's gay rights movement. Congress has, at times, seen writing on the wall. The Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives approved a 275,000-acre Boulder White Clouds Wilderness in Idaho when it became clear that Obama would designate the land as a national monument. The monument protects 11,815-foot Castle Peak, one of the most imposing mountains of the American West. Wild lands in Southern Utah are one monument battlefield, with Republicans offering some wilderness protection but not enough in the view of conservationists. The Owyhee River in Oregon and Idaho is proposed for protection. The President could also designate a national monument on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, coveted by Big Oil and pro-development Alaska politicians for more than 40 years...more

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