Judged on title alone the National Monument Creation and Protection Act sounds just dandy. But upon taking a closer look this recently-proposed bill (HR 3990) clearly threatens the longstanding process used to create and protect National Monuments in the United States for over a century.
For 111 years the establishment and protection of National Monuments has been guided by the Antiquities Act, legislation passed in 1906 and signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt.
Since then the Antiquities Act has been used recognize and protect unique places including Devils Tower (1906), Rainbow Bridge (1910), Canyon de Chelly (1931, pictured above), Little Bighorn Battlefield (1940), Fort Sumter (1948), Giant Sequoia (2000), and Bears Ears (2016).
These special areas (129 of them in total) are the kind of places you probably remember if you visited them as a kid and they are the kinds of places that — if not protected — disappear forever. Commercial interests in our public lands grows day by day.
How Does HR 3990 Affect the Antiquities Act?
Under the changes proposed in HR 3990 the Antiquities Act would be effectively neutered when it comes to the creation and protection of National Monuments. It would do this in three main ways:
- Restrict the ability of future presidents to establish National Monuments larger than 640 acres, requiring that any future large designations be approved by all affected state and local political entities.
- Prohibit the creation of any new Marine National Monuments.
- Allow existing Monuments to be reduced in size.
Reasons to Oppose HR 3990
The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) offers up multiple reasons to oppose this legislation:
- The Antiquities Act is the fastest and most direct way of providing our most vulnerable and irreplaceable cultural and natural resources with the highest possible protection.
- Archaeological sites are best interpreted in a landscape context, especially in the western states — larger Monument designations are necessary.
- National Monuments create economic opportunity for neighboring communities.
- During the administration’s recent review of National Monument designations, nearly 3 million comments were submitted, and 99% supported maintaining the monuments unchanged.
- There is no need for this bill — it is a solution in search of a problem.
What to Do
Use the SAA’s tool (click on Take Action) to identify your congressional district and call your representative. A vote in the full House of Representatives is upcoming.