Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Editorial: 1 person shouldn’t make or break a U.S. monument
There is a good argument that one person acting unilaterally should not be able to set aside hundreds of thousands of acres under the guise of conservation without adequate debate or discussion about what makes that acreage so very valuable in its pristine form. Likewise, there is a good argument that one person should not be able to put all those acres back into play without adequate public debate or discussion about why that was the wrong decision.
Call it a breakdown of our nation’s system of checks and balances. More specifically, call it a gaping hole in the 110-year-old Antiquities Act.
...Now Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, head of the House Committee on Natural Resources, wants President-elect Donald Trump to abolish the 47 national monuments created during the Obama and Clinton administrations, specifically Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument as well as the proposed Bears Ears area in his state.
It’s questionable if Trump would be able to do that – an official with the National Parks Conservation Association points out “there is no precedent” for a president taking back a national monument, and a former chief attorney for the Department of Interior says a U.S. Attorney General opinion from the 1930s examined the issue “and concluded that a president cannot undo a monument.”
That leaves the question relatively open. There is no question that Congress can “undo” a monument, and it has – 11 times.
...U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, all N.M. Democrats, have vocally criticized Bishop’s proposal. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., is espousing a middle-of-the-road approach, unsurprising since he introduced legislation to protect 60,000 acres of the Organ Mountains versus the 496,000 acres Obama ultimately set aside.
Pearce points out “the Antiquities Act requires that a president designate the smallest possible footprint in order to achieve the desired environmental preservation” and emphasizes “these decisions must be made in Congress.”