June 20, 2018

Curtis Bill Enhances Antiquities Protections, Creates First Ever Tribally-Managed National Monument

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2018 – Today, the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on H.R. 4532, the “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act.” Introduced by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), and cosponsored by every Member of the House of Representatives from Utah, the bill builds upon President Trump’s right-sizing of the Bears Ears National Monument (BENM) and creates the first tribally co-managed national monument in history.

While it is difficult to overstate how politicized the creation and management of our national monuments has become, I believe all sides of this debate share many common goals,” Rep. Curtis stated. “These goals include a high priority on protecting and preserving both antiquities and the natural beauty of this area, as well as maintaining traditional uses of the land.”

In in the waning days of office, President Obama unilaterally designated the BENM against the will of Utah’s elected leaders, local stakeholders and tribes.

Despite empty promises to the contrary, the original BENM proclamation did not bestow tribal co-management. Instead, the proclamation created a token advisory role for tribes and no legal or official decision making authority.

“There is no one who cares for the land more than we do, the local residents and native people of San Juan County. It is the people who live closest to the land that understand the land best and should have a voice in how lands are managed,” Member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Suzette Morris stressed.

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), described the Bears Ears Commission, the tribal advisory board established under the original BENM proclamation, as a scam.

“The Commission is a fraud, it’s a sham. They get to advise, but the advice can easily be rejected. Land managers have the ability to arbitrarily change things and there is nothing tribes can do about it,” Chairman Bishop argued.

Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) questioned Ms. Morris on whether local tribes were consulted by the Obama administration prior to the BENM designation and whether tribal co-management was ever achieved. “No,” Morris answered. 

President Trump signed an Executive Order in April 2017, requiring a review of recent monument designations to determine whether they were consistent with the “original objectives” of the Antiquities Act.  The review asserted, among other conclusions, that BENM’s size was not the “smallest area compatible” with care of the objects requiring protection, as required under the Act, and that tribes did not have an “adequate role” in managing the monument.

On December 4, 2017, President Trump signed a proclamation to protect identified antiquities in the region with the creation of two new separate, more targeted monuments: the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument. To codify those actions and prevent future administrations from arbitrarily modifying the monument boundaries, congressional action is required.

“We now find ourselves with a reset and the opportunity to move forward with a legislative process for protecting this area,” Governor of Utah Gary Herbert stressed. “If we really care about protecting the antiquities and archeological artifacts… if we really care about giving native Americans co-management responsibility, it has to be done legislatively.”

“Without congressional action, Bears Ears, Shash Jaa and Indian Creed will be relegated to nothing more than political footballs being punted back and forth with each presidential adminstration. Nobody wins in that scenario – not the archeological resources, not the environment and certainly not the people of San Juan County,” Director of the Coalition for Self-Government in the West of the Sutherland Institute Matt Anderson stated.

H.R. 4532 codifies the newly-created monuments and establishes the Shash Jaa Tribal Management Council, made up of a minimum of four local tribal members, guaranteeing tribal input in management decisions.

H.R. 4532 will finally empower the voices who have been silenced in the debate, and those are the tribes of the local tribes who actually live in San Juan County,” Morris said.

The bill maintains the existing 1.35 million acre mineral withdrawal under the original BENM designation to “put to rest any suspicion that the monument was reduced in order to advance energy development,” Governor Herbert stated.

The bill also establishes the first-of-its-kind Archaeological Resources Protection Unit, a statutory assignment of additional law enforcement personnel, and additional federal dollars, for the exclusive protection of antiquities within monument boundaries.

Click here to view full witness testimony.

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Trump National Monument Reform Applauded by Free-Market Environmentalists

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

“First Step on the Road to Undoing an Egregious Abuse of Power”

Repeal Antiquities Act to Protect Property Rights, Promote Economic Prosperity


Washington, DC 
– 
Environmental experts with the National Center for Public Policy Research applaud President Donald Trump’s order to scale back two Utah national monuments as a good kickoff in reforming abuse of the Antiquities Act. The National Center sent President Trump a coalition letter earlier this year noting that modern applications of the Act unconstitutionally create de facto wilderness areas and national parks prohibiting almost all activity on designated land.

“This is a first step on the road to undoing an egregious abuse of power that the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations exercised in designating millions of acres of federal land as national monuments. But it is just a first step. Obama alone designated national monuments in Oregon, California, Nevada and Maine as well as off the Atlantic Coast, and these should also be on the chopping block,” said National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen, Ph.D. “Ultimately, the problem lies with the Antiquities Act itself. Originally enacted to protect Native American artifacts and sacred sites, it has been transformed into a land-use mechanism that blocks Americans’ access to their own natural resources. Since the Antiquities Act was passed in 1906, other laws have been enacted that protect Native American cultural and archeological sites. These other laws do not lend themselves to the abuse we have seen with the Antiquities Act.”

On December 4, President Trump ordered the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to be dramatically scaled back. His action came after he asked the U.S. Department of the Interior earlier this year to review all monument designations. While the land remains under the control of the federal government, this order opens it up to more potential use by the public. These may not be the only monument designations reconsidered by the President.

“These designations really protected nothing. The lands were already owned by the federal government and carefully managed, regulated and well-protected by an army of federal agents,” said National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. “The goal of the designations had been to convert multiple-use public lands into de facto national parks and wilderness areas, preventing traditional uses such as recreation, grazing and any other economic uses of natural resources. It usurped the authority of Congress to designate parks and wildernesses, and it disenfranchised the people of the affected states – especially those in rural counties and communities. Worse, it accelerated the War on the West – destroying the economic well-being of much of rural America while undermining the tax base of county and small town governments and turning thriving communities into ghost towns.”

In October, the National Center brought together almost 40 free-market organizations, trade associations, businesses, former federal officials and current lawmakers on a letter to President Trump that asked for comprehensive reform of the Antiquities Act and a rollback of national monument designations. It asked the Trump Administration to “deal more forcibly with the abuses that have plagued the program for decades” and “restor[e] integrity and transparency to a process that for too long has been lacking in both.”

“The Antiquities Act should be repealed,” added Dr. Cohen. “Meanwhile, we eagerly await President Trump’s next steps to restore the rule of law and remove Washington’s meddling hands from how our lands – public and private – are to be used.”

Smith said: “We applaud President Trump, and we hope he will continue to substantially downsize – or preferably eliminate – other national monument designations under review in Maine, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Nevada.”

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Trump dramatically SHRINKS Bears Ears National Monument

  • President announced plans Monday in Utah to shrink two sprawling Utah national monuments by nearly two-thirds after Obama expanded them
  • Trump plans to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost half
  • Move is being called illegal by environmental groups and will be opposed by some, but not all, Native American groups
  • Trump said on his way out of Washington that his decision is a victory for ‘state’s rights’
  • A Navajo Democratic county commissioner told Trump’s audience that expanding the monuments had put her ancestral lands off-limits
  • Riot police dispersed protesters outside a Mormon charity food-distribution center as Trump spoke to church leaders inside<<<Read More>>>

Hopefully, the president will not stop here and will reduce or eliminate many more.

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