WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), led a group of more than 100 Democratic Members of Congress in re-introducing legislation to protect America’s treasured national monuments against the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on public lands. The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2019 reinforces Congress’ clear intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation.
“One of the United States of America’s greatest traditions is the preservation of our iconic landscapes and the protection of our natural history,” said Udall, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. “But within months of stepping into the Oval Office, President Trump and his administration sought to undo a centuries-old legacy of bipartisan conservation – overstepping their authority with illegal attacks on our cherished public lands, all to benefit the administration’s special interest friends. From Organ-Mountains Desert Peaks, to Rio Grande del Norte, to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, our national monuments are the product of years of collaboration at the local level, and they provide unmatched value to small businesses, outdoor enthusiasts, and communities that depend on a thriving outdoor recreation economy. This ANTIQUITIES Act makes it crystal clear: the president cannot just wipe away our treasured national monuments with the flick of a pen – because only Congress has the authority to change a national monument designation.”
“We love our public lands, we love our open spaces, and we care about the future we’re going to leave for our children, but this administration has been illegally attacking our nation’s treasures so it can sell them off to oil companies and developers,” said Haaland, vice chair of the full House Committee on Natural Resources and chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “As my first piece of legislation this bill expands on my efforts to fight climate change by protecting land from extraction, honor our sacred sites, and ensure our beautiful places are here for future generations. Our public lands are not for sale.”
The ANTIQUITIES Act comes in response to President Trump’s attempt to eliminate 2 million acres of protections for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history. Trump took this action despite the fact that Americans across the country overwhelmingly voiced support for keeping the monuments intact. During the administration’s public comment process, over 99 percent of the 2.8 million comments received were in favor of maintaining existing protections for our national monuments.
The question of the validity of these reductions is now being challenged in court. Udall and Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) led 118 Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief, reaffirming that only Congress has this power to change or alter monuments.
National monuments and America’s protected public lands help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, which sustains 7.6 million jobs and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue. In New Mexico alone, the outdoor recreation economy is responsible for 99,000 jobs.
S. 367, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019, protects and enhances national monuments with three main provisions:
• It officially declares Congress’ support for the 52 national monuments established by presidents in both parties between January 1996 and October 2018 under their authority established by the Antiquities Act of 1906.
• It reinforces that existing law clearly states that presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished, except by an act of Congress.
• It further enhances protections for the presidentially designated national monuments by 1) requiring that they be surveyed, mapped and that management plans be completed in two years—in the same manner as congressionally designated national monuments—and 2) that they receive additional resources to ensure that they will continue to meet their full potential of providing unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to their states and to the nation.
The bill also expands protection for the Bears Ears National Monument to over 1.9 million acres, directing that it be composed of the lands identified in the Bears Ears Tribal Coalition’s original proposal. In addition, it would designate over 249,000 acres of federal public lands in New Mexico as wilderness and add over 111,000 acres of wilderness in southern Nevada, building on the monument protections in these states. This legislation preserves opportunities for hunting, tourism, scientific research, conservation, and cultural uses in national monuments and ensures they are properly resourced.
In addition to Udall and Haaland, the ANTIQUITIES Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and 75 other members of the House of Representatives.
“The preservation of our public lands and waters is a fundamental American value. In New Mexico, public lands contribute to our outdoor economy, generating over $10 billion in consumer spending each year and employing over 100,000 New Mexicans,” said Luján. “The ANTIQUITIES Act will preserve the lands and waters that have been an integral part of our culture for generations from the unprecedented attacks of the Trump Administration. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to make it clear that these lands are here to stay.”
“This bill would permanently protect more than 50 of America’s treasured monuments—including Bears Ears. The American people have spoken loud and clear in support of these cherished lands and deserve to have their government ensure they are protected for this and future generations,” said Gallego.
“The Trump administration has shown a blatant disregard for the Antiquities Act, which has protected so many iconic places that we all treasure like Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte,” said Heinrich. “We must do everything we can to prevent the president from rolling back protections for the public lands we all own and love. Conserving our natural and cultural heritage for our children and all future generations of Americans is a moral responsibility.”
Groups supporting the legislation include the National Parks Conservation Association, Conservation Lands Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, League of Conservation Voters, EarthJustice, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Grand Canyon Trust and the Bears Ears Coalition Tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni).