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Should We Amend the Antiquities Act? On Wednesday's Access Utah

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, U.S. Presidents have the power to unilaterally create National Monuments. President Obama used this power in March to add 1,665 acres to the California Coastal National Monument. 

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation (EPIC) of National Monuments Act (H.R. 1459) which recently passed the House of Representatives, would, among other things, require National Monument declarations to undergo a review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would limit such declarations to no more than one per state during a four-year presidential term. The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board laments passage of the bill, saying that “The time for a public review of the future of a piece of public land is before it is forever destroyed, not before it is set aside, and that “H.R. 1459 ... wants to make it nearly as difficult to create a national monument as it is to permit a coal mine.” The Deseret News Editorial Board lauds the move, saying that “It is a small step, but a good one,” and adding that they even prefer “earlier proposals that would have required a president to seek public input from those affected, as well as from the governor and congressional delegation of the state in which the monument [was] to be created.” Opponents of presidential power to create monuments point to President Clinton’s 1996 designation of 1.8 million acres of Southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as politically motivated and as tying up large underground reserves of coal. Conservationists counter that the need for lands preservation is pressing and that a gridlocked Congress is unlikely to act on these issues. We’ll talk with Rep. Rob Bishop; Tim Wagner from the Sierra Club; Retired BLM official Dennis Willis; and State Rep. Mike Noel R-Kanab.

Listener's Comments:

"I can not support this bill. It suggest public involvement but in truth, I believe it will subjugate the process to petty local politics and corporate interest at the expense what Theodore Roosevelt termed "the Greater Good." This bill threatens our ability to protect our last, best wild places. These lands belong to all Americans. These are National public lands. Ezra Taft Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture one commented "Public lands should be managed in the public interest." -Scott Bushman

"I think in today's political climate it is critical for the President to make executive decisions on the designation and protection of wilderness.  Our congress and its elected officials are impotent to see the big picture of environmental issues due to the economic lens that our representatives chose to see the landscape with." -Joe Kotynek


Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.