Friday, July 07, 2017

Presidents have reduced national monuments 18 times before Bears Ears controversy

The Trump administration’s “unprecedented” effort to break up and shrink a national monument has been done at least 18 times before, with presidents of both parties exercising power to significantly reduce the size of U.S. landmarks established by their predecessors. Environmentalists and congressional Democrats are framing the current battle — the Interior Department’s proposal to resize Bears Ears National Monument in Utah — as a first-of-its-kind expansion of executive power, a move that stretches to the breaking point the century-old Antiquities Act, which gives presidents authority to create monuments. The reality, however, is much different. If anything, there is a tradition of presidents making major changes to monuments. In 1915, President Wilson cut the size of Washington’s Mount Olympus National Monument by more than 300,000 acres. “It can be done, and past presidents have done it. It demonstrated the truth of what I’ve said all along: Just as no Congress can bind a future Congress, no president can bind the nation in perpetuity. It doesn’t make any sense,” said William Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a nonprofit group that battled the federal government in court over President Clinton’s creation of the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. That monument is also under review by the Trump administration. “I don’t think it would take the courts long at all to dispose of any challenge to the presidential authority to do this,” Mr. Pendley said. It has been done at least 18 times since the Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906, according to information from the National Park Service and the House Natural Resources Committee. Most were relatively small. Franklin D. Roosevelt cut Arizona’s Wupatki National Monument by 52 acres, and Dwight D. Eisenhower cut Alaska’s Glacier Bay by 4,193 acres. William Howard Taft, John F. Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge and Harry S. Truman also reduced sizes of monuments. Eisenhower and Roosevelt were the most active, cutting six and four monuments, respectively...more

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