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Yesterday, Representatives Pete DeFazio (OR-04) and Raul Grijalva (AZ-09) of the House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell urging her to protect more land under the Antiquities Act. 107 other House Democrats co-signed the letter.

The 112th Congress, as the letter points out, was the first Congress in forty years to fail to permanently protect any of the nation's treasured landscapes. The track record of the current Congress (113th) is not looking particularly good either. The House Natural Resources Committee has held hearings for only eight of 37 land designation proposals offered this Congress, and only one has thus far passed.

The Antiquities Act, signed into law in 1906 by Teddy Roosevelt, gives the president the authority to protect and conserve public lands through the issuance of executive orders. The president can designate "National Monuments" for preservation/conservation. "National Park" designation, however, must go through Congress and, consequently, takes more time.

In his first term, Obama had a pretty abysmal record at protecting public lands. Unless something radically changes, he will end up protecting fewer acres of public lands administratively than George W. Bush did.

Obama has been much more willing to open lands up for oil and gas drilling:

Here is the text of the Democrats' letter:

Dear Secretary Jewell:

We are writing in response to your recent comments about the Antiquities Act and your ongoing commitment to conservation and historic preservation on Federal land. Only Congress has the authority to establish National Parks, Forests, and wilderness areas, but there is a long tradition of the conservation initiatives spearheaded by the President. Since the 1906 passage of the Antiquities Act, Presidents have had the authority to establish National Monuments. This is an important tool that has led to the protection of some our most iconic landscapes and valuable cultural resources, including the Grand Canyon and the recently enacted Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument. Some initiatives require Presidential leadership and should not be bogged down by political infighting and paralysis, increasingly common characteristics of Congress.

In today’s deeply partisan environment, it’s becoming nearly impossible for Congress to make critical conservation decisions.  The 112th Congress was the first Congress in 40 years that failed to permanently protect any of America’s treasured landscapes. The current Congress is on a path to repeat that abysmal record. There are 37 land designation bills sitting before Congress that have broad public support. Unfortunately, Congress is failing to act.  The House Natural Resources Committee has only held hearings on 8 of these proposals and only one has moved beyond markup and passed the House. With only 121 legislative days scheduled for 2014, the time to act is running out. Many of these proposals are excellent candidates for an Antiquities Act designation by the President.

On April 16, 2013, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on a suite of bills designed to dilute the Presidential authority outlined in the Antiquities Act. The theme of the hearing was overreach with a strong emphasis placed on the need to make the National Monument process more inclusive by requiring Congressional approval. As you know, Congress already has the opportunity to take the lead but is choosing to shun this role. Conservation and historic preservation initiatives with broad public support should not have to be sidelined or stalled because of political paralysis. Gateway communities throughout the country benefit from Federal conservation efforts; resources are protected, visitor experience is enhanced, and local economies are enhanced. At National Parks alone, visitors spend more than $35 million per day. Our most significant resources deserve our attention.

Again, we are encouraged by your enthusiasm, and we look forward to your leadership to help identify appropriate sites for conservation and preservation. When Congress is unable to advance conservation legislation, the importance of the Antiquities Act is increasingly apparent.  

15 of the voting members of the House Committee on Natural Resources signed the letter:

Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06)
Grace Napolitano (CA-38)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-07)
Jim Costa (CA-20)
Niki Tsongas (MA-03)
Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
Jared Huffman (CA-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
Katherine Clark (MA-05)

Only two voting Democratic members of HCNR did not sign: Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) and Steven Horsford (NV-04).

Here are the rest of the co-signers:

Mike Thompson (CA-05)
Doris Matsui (CA-06)
Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
George Miller (CA-11)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Mike Honda (CA-17)
Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Lois Capps (CA-24)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Judy Chu (CA-27)
Adam Schiff (CA-28)
Henry Waxman (CA-33)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)
Mark Takano (CA-41)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Scott Peters (CA-52)

Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Jared Polis (CO-02)

John B. Larson (CT-01)
Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)
Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)

Kathy Castor (FL-14)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)
Frederica Wilson (FL-24)

Hank Johnson (GA-04)
John Lewis (GA-05)

Bobby L. Rush (IL-01)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Brad Schneider (IL-10)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)

Bruce Braley (IA-01)

John Sarbanes (MD-03)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)

Jim McGovern (MA-02)
Mike Capuano (MA-07)
Bill Keating (MA-09)

Dan Kildee (MI-05)
Sander Levin (MI-09)
John Conyers (MI-13)

Tim Walz (MN-01)
Betty McCollum (MN-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)

Bennie Thompson (MS-02)

Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)

Diana Titus (NV-01)

Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02)

Michelle Luan Grisham (MN-01)
Ben Lujan (NM-03)

Tim Bishop (NY-01)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Yvette Clarke (NY-09)
Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
Joseph Crowley (NY-14)
Jose Serrano (NY-15)
Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Louise Slaughter (NY-25)

David Price (NC-04)

Marcia Fudge (OH-11)

Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)

Allyson Schwartz (PA-13)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)

David Ciciline (RI-01)
Jim Langevin (RI-02)

Steve Cohen (TN-09)

Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)

Bobby Scott (VA-03)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)

Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Rick Larsen (WA-02)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Adam Smith (WA-09)
Denny Heck (WA-10)

Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Gwen Moore (WI-04)

Donna Christensen (VI)

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the list, which could be a guide (7+ / 0-)

    to donations later this year ?

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:32:19 PM PST

  •  Obama has this opportunity (7+ / 0-)

    He has been pretty weak on using the executive branch for making progress on environmental issues, except for some air and GHG rules.

    I am hoping that adding Podesta to the team makes a difference for the last 3 years, and national monument designations need to be at the top of the list.

    "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

    by oregonj on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:38:21 PM PST

  •   obama has set aside 9 monuments, clinton holds (5+ / 0-)

    the record with 19. the difference is, clinton's monunments were big, grand staircase is over 1 million acres. obamas biggest rio grande del norte is about 240000 acres. i think bristol bay should be set aside, in ak, which would create a monument, millions of acres in size, since most of the land around the bay is federal land. other monuments i'd like to see
    Maine North Woods ,aine
     Chesapeake bay MD-Va
     okefenoke GA-FL
    great lakes MN-WI-MI-IL-IN-OH-PA-NY
    San Rafeal Swell- UT
    La Bajada mesa-NM
    el Yunque- PR

  •  the AA needs to apply to every state. (1+ / 0-)

    currently Wyoming in exempt and Alaska limited presidential power with the passage of ANILCA in 1980. monuments bigger than 5000 acres in AK need congressional ok. frankly those limits need to be scrapped. the lesigaltion i'd propose wiill state:
     'The Antiquities act is amended as followed
     NO state within the United States, may exempt itself from this act, limit acreage the President may designate under this act, or place any other restriction on the President's authority to declare national monuments under this act..
     The power of the president under this act is permanent under the seperation of powers. Congress may undesignate or defund a declared monument, but cannot exempt states from the act or revoke the act. '

    •  Just substitute "King" for President in your post, (0+ / 0-)

      and it makes perfect sense.  Kings get to ignore local desires, and make laws without the Legislature.  I don't see anything in our Constitution that allows the President to do that.  I think it's a nice gesture, for actual "Monument" sorts of places, small acreage...but when you start setting aside vast swaths of land, there is a branch of Government designated with making laws, and Alaska has rightly said that they need to be involved.

      "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

      by Bisbonian on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 06:43:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Congress made it clear in the act that the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        President has broad powers to set aside monuments, and the supreme Court has upheld repeatedly with designations of large Monuments like the Grand Canyon, that the use of the AA is valid. Congress' check on the president in terms of the AA is the power of the purse as well as having the ability to undo monument designations. The AA should apply to every state, the states recourse is through Congress. if the states dont like the monument they could push a bill through Congress to undesignate the area. What they cannot do is exempt themselves. the exemption of Wyoming in 1950 and the 5000 acres limit passed in ANILCA in 1980, were , in my opinion , mistakes. having the ability to, for example, designate Bristol Bay  is something the president should have. Currently the most land he could set aside in the area is 5000 acres without Congressional OK. and the watershed of Bristol Bay covers a lot more than 5000 acres,and we;re not even including the bay itself, ala Biscayne Bay. in times of war the president has broad discretion to wage war, in terms of conservation, a similar degree of authority should be available to him or her . while i would prefer congress to pass bills setting aside these areas, having a powerful aa is the next best option, since the current House has not passed any bills protecting the special areas in this country that need protection, and have shown no appetite for changing their minds for the rest of this session, invoking the Aa is something the President could and should do.

        •  The Grand Canyon is a National Park, and was (0+ / 0-)

          approved by Congress.  More than 5000 acres is not a Monument.

          "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

          by Bisbonian on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 12:49:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  it was a monument first, and was upgraded in 1919 (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            it was set aside in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt as a monument, and was the first test case of the AAs legality. the Supreme Court , in 1920 ruled unanimously that it was legal to declare it a monument , and thus codified the power of the President to set aside large areas. . so it is settled law that the president can set aside monuments and they can be as large as he wants. President Bush set aside a number of monuments that covered 10s of millions of acres in the Pacific, and no one complained about it. a monument can be less than an acre, as in the African Burial grounds in NYC, or it could be 20 million acres, roughly the size of ANWR,  or anywhere in-between.the smallest national park in the system is Hot Springs in Arkansas which covers less than 6000 acres.many of our national parks were monuments first, our newest national park, Pinnacles , which is in California, was declared a monument in 1908 and was only upgraded in 2013, so it can take a long time to upgrade an area, as only Congress can create national parks.

  •  Alas, nobody from Utah (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MorrellWI1983, willyr, JVolvo, Woody

    I would dearly love to see Desolation and Gray canyons through the Tonto Plateau, protected.  These spectacular canyons, and the area around Rock Creek especially, are well known by river rats, but few other people.

    Paddling the Green River through this area is a special treat.

    •  well utah is one of the 'big 3' (0+ / 0-)

      in terms of biatching about federal land, along with AK ans WY. then during the shutdown they realized how much it costs to properly run them. not only should we protect more land we need to create a new department strictly for conservation, and properly fund it. i figure 100 billion should be enough, which is 5 times what the current budget is. put the parks, forests, wildlife refuges and epa into it and revive the civilian conservation corp and add it in as well. then you have all the conservations bases covered. in my national parks diary series i propose adding monuments in every state to cut down down on the ' why are you picking on us?' complaints that always seem to spring up..

      •  To see how valuable our protected lands are - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        especially in the crowded "East" I like to point to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Yes, it is a pain for us who live here, but looking at visitation I keep on thinking of the constituency you build for more wild places.

        Not only does SBDNL have some great beaches and islands, but there are historical assets and some absolutely spectacular things to do, like sea kayaking along the dune slope.

        Michigan is also blessed with National Forests.  And luckily the obscenely poor governance by republicans has not resulted in too much damage yet.

        •  frankly lakeshore and seahore have always (0+ / 0-)

          confused me, in terms of protection. is it a park or monument? or is it somewhere inbetween a park and recreational area in terms of funding and protection? frankly i'd just add 'park into the name. ' sio it would be Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park and Lakeshore, or Monument and lakeshore. keeps it simple. kinda like park and preserve,

    •  Protect it all: Greater Canyonlands Natl Monument (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      P E Outlier

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 05:22:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm aware of SUWA (0+ / 0-)

        I don't know how effective they have been.

        But, I don't know how effective they have been.  SUWA has proposed wilderness for Desolation and Gray canyons.

        For those curious about this area, many different outfitters run trips there.  And, for a family trip, or people who want to try paddling their own inflatable boat, this is a great intro to Western whitewater.

        I've paddled the Green through this region in an open canoe and enjoyed every second of it.  One summer, one very wet summer, I was doing maintenance along the river with the NFS - fun stuff like sifting charcoal from old fire pits, or trimming poison ivy along trails.  Anyway, there were flash floods coming down the side canyons nearly every day.  Our group got to name a new rapid, Belknap Falls, and experienced the newly augmented Three Fords rapid.

        Places like that give voice to the idea that there are spectacular areas in our country that aren't just National Parks.

  •  Jewell in New Mexico: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MorrellWI1983, Woody

    about to be the next National Monument:

    Years of work to preserve the Organ Mountains-Desert Peak region are almost completed, with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visiting Friday to listen to the community and hear their views on what should be done to protect the majestic country. Her visit is likely one of the last steps before action is taken — in this instance, a declaration from President Barack Obama through the Antiquities Act to create the Organ Mountains-Desert Peak National Monument.

    The action is worthwhile and long overdue.

    Under normal circumstances, legislation would make its way through Congress and be signed by the president. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich listened to the residents of the area and introduced the necessary enabling legislation — they will be meeting with people along with Jewell today. As with so many good things, though, bills to preserve wilderness go to the House of Representatives to die. (Measures to safeguard this area have died in the last two sessions of Congress despite widespread public support — opinion polls show 82 percent support for the preservation of the monument.)

    Through the inaction of the House, the United States is failing to preserve our wild lands — the last congressional designation of new wilderness happened back in 2009.

    Santa Fe New Mexican editorial

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 05:11:29 PM PST

  •  The antiquities act is the wrong way to go. (0+ / 0-)

    If we want Wilderness, Parks, or Recreation Areas we need to do some horse trading, that's how things get done.

    Historically issues environmental were the one issue that garnered across the board support no matter what party one was from or what part of the country. Tracking by Pew shows this one issue has split further apart than any other issue they track.


    Notice most of the people on the list come from states that wouldn't have any monument designations?

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 05:16:25 PM PST

    •  thats because the rs no longer give a damn about (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the environment. while that might have been true up until the gingrich house, ban, its no longer the case. the aa was written precisely for when  congress was slow to act on protecting lands , or, as with recent r houses, hostile to  it. organ peaks will be obamas 10th monument, and i applaud him for it. frankly i'd like to see some of wisconsin protected, if only to flip walker the finger. there are 22 states with no national monuments. fortunately, with the park service centennial coming up in 2016, i predict that number is going to drop quite a bit, to mark the anniversary. monuments are a step below parks, and congress can upgrade the areas at any time- its not as if the land is going anywhere once its a monument. i i'd like to have some eastern states gets monuments like maine vermont and Pennsylvania.

      •  The state of Montana has been waiting for their (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Rocky Mountain Front Act to be passed for years. A lot of R states have places they want to promote or issues of public land that they'd like some leeway on.

        Maine, Vermont and Pennsylvania don't have much public land do they?

        A lot of the newer public land acts like the Wyoming Range (last big chunk of preserved land 2.1 million acres) are mixtures of incorporating current public use, as well as various recreational interests all of whom would be locked out of parks.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 07:36:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maine has 10.5 million acres in the North woods (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          willyr, ban nock

          thats unincorporated territory , so the state doesnt get much direct revenue from it. protecting most of it, is not only possible, but should be done. it terms of percentage of land oprotected by the feds,  vermont has 7.4% Pa 2.5% and Maine 1.1%. however vermont is a small state, pa has a large number of state parks and forests, and maine has a huge expanse of incorporated territory that could be preserved as a monument. the north woods covers almost half the state. RESTORE wants to set aside 3.2 million acres of it as a national park, i view htat as too small. i favor setting aside 10 million, or about 95%of the area, as a monument. i would grandfather in snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, and as a requirement of establishing the monument the workers hired would be local and if had your favorite spot or hunting ground , i would allow the nfs to grant lifetime passes to the folks so they could keep fishing or hunting as they had been for decades. i would have the nfs manage it.

  •  This is all well and good, (0+ / 0-)

    ...but will these same Congress folk fight like hell in a unified and consistent manner to increase Interiors budget specifically the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service and Dept of Agriculture Forest Service and BLM? Any or all four agencies will be charged with managing whatever gets designated for protection. Right now these agencies are running on a shoestring and slipping fast as fixed costs rise faster than allocated budgets.  

  •  indeed, they most likely wont. the parks budget (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    should be between 20-22 billion. same with the other agencies. the backlogs that have been piling up total 12 billion in nps and billionsbs more in the forests, epa and fws. lets figure 25 billion is needed to get everything up to speed. thats more than the current combined budget of the 4 agencies. we should be around 100 billion for the environment. given the 16-fold return on the current parks, 20 billion would net 320 billion in economic output.

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