MYTH:

“President Obama has sidelined the American public and bulldozed transparency by proclaiming three new national monuments through executive fiat. The Obama Administration claims these designations have public support, but we know that is a complete stretch of the truth.  The cost to taxpayers is anyone’s guess and the impacts upon local communities are unknown.” Congressman Rob Bishop, 2/18/15

FACTS:

Polling showed 8 in 10 Coloradans supported a Browns Canyon National Monument. Pullman National Monument had support from almost the entire Illinois delegation, including 4 Republicans. Honouliuli has the support of the entire Hawaii delegation.  Each received thousands of public comments in support of the designation. 

Not only are impacts to local communities not unknown, they are demonstrably positive.  Following recent designations, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument increased local tax revenue by 21% and visitation increased by 40%.  The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument designation lead to a strong public-private partnership in the community. Visitation to Fort Ord has increased astronomically — from 40,000 visitors a year in 1999 to 400,000 since the Fort Ord National Monument was established in 2012.  Other national monuments have seen similar benefits to local communities.

MYTH:

“People must realize that national monuments created by Presidential executive order under the Antiquities Act often become underfunded and neglected orphan properties . This is because they are created outside the normal Congressional process and without local consensus, robbing the people of fair and open input.” Congressman Doug Lamborn, 2/18/15

FACTS:

Many of our most revered and important national parks and monuments were first protected through the Antiquities Act.  These sites and others are now among our most well protected, funded and visited parks and monuments. Nearly half of National Parks started as national monuments, including Colorado National Monument, the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty – proof that presidents have reserved designation status to America’s most treasured historic, cultural and natural resources.

MYTH:

“New national monuments would limit access, threaten grazing rights, end mineral exploration and mining, and even impact private property.” Congressman Dean Heller, 2/19/2011

FACTS:

The Antiquities Act only allows the President to designate national monuments on existing federal lands—already owned by the federal government.  The Act has no impact on private property and is in no way a “land grab.” Fifteen presidents of both parties have used this Act to protect lands and waters already owned and used by the American people.

Monument designations do not lock up resources.  Under the Antiquities Act, all “valid existing rights,” which include rights of way, patented mining claims, private property, and mineral leases, are grandfathered before the designation can move forward.   For example, if a company holds a valid lease to drill for oil prior to the monument being created, then they can still drill after the monument is created.  And grazing rights continue to be managed under existing law after a monument is created.

But it is true that moving forward, these areas are withdrawn from new mineral leasing, new rights of way, and the areas will not be sold to private individuals.  So basically it freezes the status quo moving forward.

Monument designations do not limit access and can lead to better and more sustainable recreational opportunities.   Once designated, these areas will receive increased funding to manage recreation, ensuring that trails are properly engineered, maintained and more accessible.

Finally, many types of natural, historic and cultural national treasures are protected by this important law, not just large western lands where mining, drilling and grazing other special interests have influence.  Monuments like Mt. Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, Fort McHenry and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument established by President George W. Bush were protected because of the President’s ability to move quickly to save vulnerable resources.

MYTH:

“As a partisan decree, with no effective local input and no protection through legislative enactment, the canyon’s status can simply be undone by another president.” Congressman Ken Buck,  4/12/15

FACTS:

Congress chose to specifically address this very concern when passing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976.  Not only did Congress review the Antiquities Act and choose to continue granting presidential authority for new designations, they also specifically forbade the Secretary from modifying or revoking any AA monuments.  Congress chose to do this specifically because it wanted the President to be able to continue to establish national monuments and reserved to itself the exclusive authority to modify or revoke them, ensuring the highest degree of protection for national monuments.

MYTH:

“National Monument designations result in severe restrictions on public lands, public lands, which has led to the economic devastation of surrounding communities that have historically relied on the resources yielded by these lands.” Senator Mike Crapo, 2/17/11

FACTS:

Numerous economic studies have documented that protected lands such as national monuments spur tourism, recreational visits, the relocation of businesses and people and are economic engines for surrounding communities and even the states where they are located.  

Protecting federal lands, whether by legislation or through the Antiquities Act, helps diversify local economies and provide economic certainty by ensuring that rural economies are not tied to singular, unsustainable, and volatile resource extraction industries. The West is changing and communities that refuse to embrace the new amenity economy will be left clinging to boom and bust industries, and they will be left behind.

MYTH:

[Following the designation of Browns Canyon National Monument] “My message to the president is cut it out. He is not king. No more acting like King Barack…That is not how we do things in the U.S. Actions like this lead the American people to view Mr. Obama’s presidency as an imperial presidency.” Congressman Ken Buck, 2/18/15

FACTS:

Presidential power to establish National Monuments on federals lands flows from The Antiquities Act of 1906.  The president’s authority under the Antiquities Act has been upheld by every court that has reviewed it since 1906 and it should not be curtailed or compromised.  The Antiquities Act was a response to concerns over theft from and destruction of archaeological sites, and was designed to provide an expeditious means to protect federal lands and resources.  For more than a century, with the support of the American people, 15 presidents of both parties have used the authority of the Antiquities Act to rise above the politics of their day to better protect America’s treasures for future generations.  Opponents of the Antiquities Act oppose its efficiency and effectiveness, preferring conservation efforts be stalled or stopped by Congressional gridlock.

The public has been involved in the designation process and now the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) conservation and recreation plan specifically calls for communities to lead the monuments process.  The AGO report recommends “a transparent and open approach to new national monument designations tailored to engaging local, state, and national interests. Any recommendations should focus on historic and natural features and cultural sites on federal lands that deserve protection under the 1906 Antiquities Act.”

These are federal lands managed for all Americans – it is entirely appropriate for local input into land use decisions, but it is also appropriate for national input into how these areas should be managed.   The lands designated as monuments are federal lands, owned by all Americans, not just residents of the state where they happen to be located. The nation, not just a single state, has a vital interest in the future of these lands and their unique qualities. Proposed legislation to limit the Antiquities Act now before Congress would have kept iconic monuments such as the Grand Canyon from being named because Arizona lawmakers were opposed to its designation in 1908.

MYTH:

“For too long, Presidents have had the ability to sneak monument designations into law without any Congressional oversight, review or approval.”  Senator Mike Crapo, 2/17/11

FACT:

Congress has the authority to declare national monuments and has done it 30 times.  Congress also has the authority to decrease or increase the size of a monument and has increased the size of 50 monuments since 1906. The America’s Great Outdoors reports recommends that Congress should work with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture in considering proposals for new wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national conservation system lands, to ensure that there is meaningful local, regional, and national input before any congressional designation is made.

MYTH:

The federal government has plenty of conservation tools, limiting the use of the Antiquities Act would have little effect.

FACT:

Historically, the Antiquities Act is one of the most important tools to achieve national conservation goals.  It allows presidents to transcend the political vagaries of their day and act with urgency to save public lands and waters from immediate threat.   Today new and accelerating threats –overdevelopment, pollution and climate change — have increased the risk and the need for urgency to save our national treasures.

MYTH:

“President Clinton designated 5.9 million acres, including vast swaths of the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests, as protected monuments.  The economic impact was swift and devastating with mill closures alone causing nearly 60,000 lost jobs.” Press Release announcing a new bill, the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, 2/17/11

FACT:

The 60,000 jobs number is unsupported.  This number likely reflects the entire loss of logging jobs in the Pacific Northwest over several decades – which had nothing to do with the establishment of this monument and everything to do with NAFTA and other free trade agreements that made foreign lumber cheaper as well as cheaper stands of quickly replenishing pine in the southeastern United States. Companies chose to relocate to areas that had sustainable timber supplies because they could not afford the capital costs of establishing a mill that would quickly run out of timber.