Lee says reforming Antiquities Act will end uncertainty around national monuments
Sep 15, 2023, 9:00 PM | Updated: Sep 16, 2023, 8:08 am
(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — For decades, Utah and many other states have had to endure uncertainty when it comes to land and national monuments. The boundaries change with each presidential administration.
Most recently, President Biden declared a national monument in northern Arizona last month.
“This is a law that was passed about 110 years ago,” Lee said. “And it’s there to give the president authority to protect areas of importance, areas of scientific value, historical value.”
In every case where a president designates a monument, Lee says the area must be the smallest area compatible with the items being protected through the monument.
The Utah senator says that isn’t necessarily happening now, especially in The Beehive State.
“What we’ve seen more recently is that we’ve had presidents declaring monuments,” Lee said. “That can be measured in terms of percentages of states. In fact, we, in the state of Utah, have had more monument land acres declared in our state, without the consent of our state’s lawmakers, then there is land in the entire state of Delaware.”
National monuments designated for six months
Lee says the legislation he proposed this week will preserve what the Antiquities Act was originally intended to do.
“It would say that when the president designates a monument,” Lee said. “That designation can remain intact for six months after the president decides to make it a monument. ”
Lee goes on to say, “And after that, if Congress decides, with-in that six-month period, to ratify it, to enact new legislation, to extend it beyond that, Congress may do so.”
Lee says the proposed compromise works for everybody.
“This is a very good compromise to allow the Antiquities Act to continue to perform that emergency-preserving function that it was designed to have,” he said. “But also to give states and to give people’s elected lawmakers in Congress broadly have the ability to weigh in and have their views known.”
One presidential declarative has been undone by the next. Lee is asked how do we move on from that?
“This is one the ways that we need to get past it is through legislative reform,” he said. “… There are uncertainties created by the controversial nature of the use of the Antiquities Act. The way it’s been interpreted by presidents and the way presidents have chosen to wield that authority has been destructive.”
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