...Passed in 1906 authorizing the president to protect "antiquities," or objects of historic interest under imminent threat, the plain language of the law requires that all designations be "confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected."
The act is not difficult to understand. It is not ambiguous. Any honest reading reveals that it was created to protect "landmarks," "structures," and "objects" – not vast swaths of land.
Compare the language of the law and the historically obvious intent of the Congress that passed it – at the time it was even debated whether the law should limit designations to 320 or 640 acres – with its abuse over the last half-century. Presidents have repeatedly flouted the rule of law and usurped the powers of Congress to arbitrarily cordon off millions of acres of land. A few statistics can illustrate the scope of the overreach.
Between 1906 and 1943, the law functioned basically as designed. Presidents respected the intent of the act. Most monuments were smaller and had clear boundaries with real antiquities inside them. By contrast, designations under the act last year averaged 739,645 acres, or more than 47 times the size of those created 110 years ago.
President Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to use the act. He used it 18 times for a combined total of 1.5 million acres. President Barack Obama used it 37 times to designate 553.6 million acres of land and water.
Let that sink in: 553.6 million acres (more than half a billion). That is an average of 189,000 acres designated with the stroke of a pen for every single day Obama was in office. It's 830 times the size of Rhode Island, and more than 5 times the size of California.
Actions such as these are not the rule of law. It is arbitrary rule by one man.