Senators Introduce ANTIQUITIES Act to Protect National Monuments from Trump Administration’s Attempts to Roll Back Protections
Bill reinforces that only Congress can alter national monuments; directs new resources to enhance existing monuments
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) led a group of 18 Democratic senators in introducing legislation to enhance protections for national monuments against the Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on public lands. The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018 reinforces Congress’ intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation.
S. 2354, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018, protects and enhances national monuments in three main provisions:
-It officially declares Congress’ support for the 51 national monuments established by presidents in both parties between January 1996 and April 2017 under their authority established by the Antiquities Act of 1906.
-It reinforces that existing law clearly states that presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished, except by an act of Congress.
-It further enhances protections for the presidentially designated national monuments by 1) requiring that they be surveyed, mapped and that management plans be completed in two years—in the same manner as congressionally designated national monuments—and 2) that they receive additional resources to ensure that they will continue to meet their full potential of providing unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to their states and to the nation.
A summary of the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018 can be found here.
The ANTIQUITIES Act comes in response to President Trump’s announcement that he will eliminate 2 million acres of protections for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history. Trump took this action despite the fact that Americans across the country overwhelmingly voiced support for keeping the monuments intact. During the administration’s public comment process, over 99 percent of the 2.8 million comments received were in favor of maintaining existing protections for our national monuments.
National monuments and America’s protected public lands help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, which sustains 7.6 million jobs and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue.
“President Trump’s unprecedented attack on public lands is not just an affront to the overwhelming majority of Americans who cherish these precious places — it’s also illegal. This legislation makes it crystal clear that monuments designated through the Antiquities Act of 1906 may not be altered by future presidents because only Congress has the authority to change a national monument designation,” Udall said. "From Rio Grande del Norte, to Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, our national monuments enjoy broad support and provide unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural value to New Mexico and the nation. The ANTIQUITIES Act builds upon these existing protections, ensuring that we keep our public lands in public hands and stop the president’s politically motivated attempts to sell off our public lands to the highest-bidding special interests.”
In addition to Udall, the ANTIQUITIES Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
In addition, the five Bears Ears Coalition Tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni) support the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018.
“President Trump’s decision to dramatically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah puts the future of these treasures in jeopardy and threatens our culture, history, and heritage,” said Durbin. “The ANTIQUITIES Act protects our country’s unique public lands and reinforces the fact that no president has the authority to reduce or diminish national monuments designated by their predecessors. Our national monuments are for all of us – Americans and visitors alike – and we must ensure that they remain in their natural condition for current and future generations to enjoy.”
“This critically urgent bill ensures that public lands and waters, from the Marine National Monument off the coast of New England, to Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, are protected for generations to come,” said Blumenthal. “President Trump’s reckless reduction of national monuments exposes our protected lands to environmental and economic destruction. This legislation will safeguard New England’s pristine marine monument from actions that would jeopardize scientific research, the health of our oceans, and Connecticut’s economy. It will also thwart the Trump Administration’s attempted sellout to industries that prioritize profit over environmental wellbeing.”
“Iconic monuments like Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou earned their well-deserved designation after significant public process and with deep community support. The unilateral decision by the Trump administration to target these designations runs completely counter to the very idea of local input,” said Wyden. “This bill builds on the existing national monuments designations under attack by this administration and sends a very clear message to Secretary Zinke that local voices will not be ignored.”
“The Trump administration has shown a blatant disregard for the Antiquities Act, which has protected so many iconic places that we all treasure and are integral parts of who we are as Americans,” said Heinrich. “The President’s unprecedented actions to drastically shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah—and his looming threats to other national monuments like Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico—tear at the heart of America’s conservation legacy and are a direct assault on sacred lands and tribal sovereignty. We must do everything we can to prevent the President from rolling back protections for the public lands we all own and love. Conserving our natural and cultural heritage for our children and all future generations of Americans is a moral responsibility.”
“Congress passed the original Antiquities Act to give presidents the power to create, not tear down, national monuments,” said Feinstein. “In California, that power has helped protect millions of acres of iconic landscapes and historic landmarks. Our bill ensures that all monuments designated by previous administrations will continue to be protected, regardless of which party controls the White House.”
“National monuments are part of who we are as a nation of good stewards and good citizens,” said Schatz. “They preserve our resources. They memorialize the people and places that are part of the American story. That’s why this legislation is so important, particularly as this administration tries to strip these treasures from the American public. This bill reasserts Congressional authority to protect our national monuments and preserve our history and natural resources for future generations.”
“It is our duty to protect our national monuments from this Administration’s attempts to diminish and open them to drilling and logging,” said Harris. “This is about rejecting the false choice that you’re either in favor of the economy or you’re in favor of the environment. We can do both, while ensuring that our future generations have a chance to experience the beauty of our public lands and oceans, too.”
“No president in history has called into question the legal validity of any national monument protected under the Antiquities Act until President Trump,” said Cortez Masto. “His unwelcome interference with the protection of our public lands shows blatant disregard for our natural history and ignorance to the economic benefits that national monuments bring to states like Nevada. I am proud to cosponsor a bill that protects presidential proclamations made under the Antiquities Act so that no one can jeopardize decades’ worth of conservation efforts.”
“When the President and the Secretary of Interior abdicate their responsibility for protecting our public lands, it’s up to Congress to act,” said Hirono. “Monuments like the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and Honouliuli National Monument were established after years of review, and the national monument designation assists efforts to combat climate change, preserves biodiversity, honors cultural traditions, and recognizes our nation’s history. Mahalo to Senator Udall for his leadership in upholding the Antiquities Act of 1906.”
“The Trump administration’s reckless attack on the future of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument’s irreplaceable biodiversity is legally dubious and unprecedented in American history,” Merkley said. “This legislation would protect Oregon’s national treasure and other public lands that are deeply cherished by the American people.”
“Since its enactment, 16 presidents from both parties have utilized the authority of the Act to preserve and protect national monuments and neighboring lands, including the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore City and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Until now, no president has ordered such a broad ‘review’ of existing monuments. President Trump’s actions threaten our very national heritage,” said Cardin. “The unprecedented scale of the attacks comes as the Trump Administration pushes to expand extractive industries on public lands. Our public lands belong to us all. We are taking action to ensure they exist for generations.”
“Over the past year, President Trump has willfully ignored the fact that our public lands belong to all of us," said Booker. "This bill is an important protection that will make it clear that President Trump does not have the authority to undo Antiquities Act protections put in place by past presidents for our shared national treasures."
“Maryland has a rich heritage and is home to several national monuments like Fort McHenry and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad. These sites provide important cultural, historical, and environmental lessons to people across our state,” said Van Hollen. “Never before have our national treasures been under such a direct threat – this Administration’s actions go against decades of precedent and respect surrounding the Antiquities Act. I’m proud to join Senator Udall in ensuring our national treasures remain protected and public, and I urge the Senate to take up this bill without delay.”
“The designation of Bears Ears National Monument protected sacred land, gave local tribes a voice in its management, and reflected the wishes of communities whose cultures and economies are grounded in this area. The President’s attempt over the past year to remove protections for Bears Ears and other national monuments is unprecedented, and a shameful addition to our nation’s long and tragic history of broken promises to our tribes,” Bennet said. “With my colleagues, I will work to advance this bill to enhance protections for Bears Ears, Canyons of the Ancients, and other existing national monuments – putting an end to this administration’s continuous attempts to tear down our country’s legacy of protecting wild and sacred places.”
“Patagonia is pleased that Senator Udall has harnessed the millions of Americans that support these special places in an effort to provide the ironclad protection they warrant. Patagonia knows that the spirit of conservation is alive and well and we salute Senator Udall’s leadership,” said Lisa Pike Sheehy, vice president of Environmental Activism for Patagonia. “Hundreds of businesses from the outdoor industry are in the support for keeping these lands open to all Americans, and we aren’t going away until they are protected.”
“President Trump and Secretary Zinke are trying to sell out our public lands and waters—magnificent landscapes and sacred sites of historic significance—to the highest bidder,” said League of Conservation Voters Deputy Legislative Director Alex Taurel. “This bill echoes the millions of public comments in support of keeping existing protections in place and emphasizes that only Congress has the authority to diminish national monuments.”
“This legislation reflects the views of the millions of Americans who opposed President Trump’s illegal and unprecedented assault on our national monuments and ensures the protection of these treasures for future generations,” said Sharon Buccino, director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Public Lands Program. “It also recognizes the critical role of tribes in managing their ancestral lands.”
“We thank Senator Udall and all those Senators who have taken a stand with millions of Americans who spoke up in support of our national monuments and the cultural, natural and historic wonders they protect,” said Dan Hartinger, National Monuments Campaign Director for the Wilderness Society. “President Trump’s elimination of over two million acres of national monuments last month was illegal and directly against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans. Rather than unprecedented, misguided, and unpopular attacks on our national monuments and public lands, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018 recognizes that we should continue to protect these precious places for future generations.”
"Our veterans sacrificed to defend the lands-of-the-free. There is no better representation of free lands, than our public lands,” said Garett Reppenhagen, an Iraq War veteran with Vet Voice Foundation. “In light of this unprecedented attack, this bill provides an added layer of insurance to ward off future attacks on national monuments and affirms the nation’s commitment to keeping public lands in public hands."
“We are grateful to Senator Udall and the co-sponsors of this legislation for standing up to President Trump’s ongoing assault against America’s public lands,” said Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Executive Director Scott Groene. “Trump’s illegal evisceration of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments will not withstand the scrutiny of either the courts or history, and we support this legislation as it would affirm the love Americans share for our Monuments and provide the funding needed to protect these lands.”
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