Sen. Mike Lee...Some environmental activists may claim that Trump does not have the power to shrink or revoke Obama’s Antiquities Act designations, but these claims are ignorant of both history and the law.
For starters, as University of California Berkeley Law School professor John Yoo and Pacific Legal Foundation Executive Director John Gaziano detailed in a recent legal report, five presidents have significantly reduced four previous monument designations, and no one has ever questioned the legality of those reductions.
Specifically, President Ike Eisenhower reduced the Great Sand Dunes National Monument by 25 percent, President Harry Truman reduced the Santa Rosa Island National Monument by 49 percent, Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Calvin Coolidge collectively reduced the Mount Olympus monument by 49 percent, and Taft reduced the Navajo National Monument by 89 percent.
A current president’s power to alter a previous president’s flows from the text of the statute, which authorizes the president “in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation … national monuments …. the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
As Yoo and Gaziano point out, “there is no temporal limit” on the requirement that a monument must be limited to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected” so all presidents must use their ongoing discretion as to whether every monument is the proper size.
“What is done by executive power can be undone by executive power.”