Democrats in Congress Introduce Senate Bill S.367 to Reinforce Protection Over National Monuments
On February 7, 2019, Congressional Democrats introduced Senate bill S.367 to reinforce that only Congress has jurisdiction over certain national monuments, to establish a National Monument Enhancement Fund, and to define certain protected wilderness areas in the states of New Mexico and Nevada. The bill is an update to the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was endorsed by Theodore Roosevelt, and recognized as “the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources.” It was enacted with the intention to protect these public resources for future generations as these sites were believed to hold “scientific, cultural, and historical value.”
The new Senate bill—officially titled “America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States Act”—was introduced by New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall and New Mexico’s Representative Deb Haaland. In large part, the bill’s purpose is to counter the Trump administration’s December 2017 decision to reduce the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument sites by millions of acres—a decision that had been met with criticism from many, including environmental and tribal groups who filed suit in response.
The new bill explicitly provides protection for 52 national monuments—including those that Trump’s administration tried to reduce in size—and makes clear that these monuments may only be “reduced, diminished, or revoked by an Act of Congress.” It also details administrative requirements related to the national monuments, such as providing a survey of the boundaries, legal descriptions, and maps to be on file for public inspection. Further, it creates a National Monument Enhancement Fund, which allocates funds to agencies within the United States in order to maintain, develop, and enhance the national monuments. Finally, it identifies ten wilderness areas in the state of New Mexico and seven in Nevada as public lands to be administrated by the Bureau of Land Management and to be observed as “natural, cultural, and historical resources.”
The bill, in its entirety, can be found here.
The Environmental Attorneys at Bick Law LLP will continue to monitor legislation that affects the environment and natural resources.