Help us Challenge Abuse of the Antiquities Act
Through an onslaught of Executive Orders, President Biden is shutting down countless jobs that rely upon access to and use of the nation’s federal public lands and their valuable natural resources. Major business sectors are reeling, and massive layoffs are disrupting families and communities all over the nation. This abuse is particularly egregious in the western states where many local and regional economies are heavily dependent upon access to federal public lands resources.
A section of EO 13990 ordered the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a review of the boundaries for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah along with the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the nation’s East Coast. Political pressure for restoring the boundaries to their original configurations or even larger is rapidly building.
12 percent of America’s lands and waters are now in formal conservation status. EO 14008 includes a section ordering the Secretary of the Interior to submit a report to the president recommending the steps the United States should take to achieve a goal of increasing that amount to a full 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. That’s a bit less than eight years to nearly triple the area of the nation placed into formal conservation! Known as “30×30” this executive overreach will include expansion of existing and addition of new wilderness areas and curtail multiple use of other federal public lands in the name of protecting the climate.
If realized, these actions, and others like them—such as the proposed 380,000-acre Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in southern Clark County, Nevada—will further threaten OHV access to many of the public lands areas we use and enjoy throughout the year.
BRC is mounting a full-court press opposing these actions, engaging a professional policy team to review EOs 13990 and 14008, the previous and current management plans for the monuments, the full range of statutes already in use to protect the public lands and resources outside the existing monument boundaries and the existing uses that protect our access to those lands.
We are mobilizing public pressure to hold the administration accountable to the American people. But if we are to wage the strongest possible effort, we are going to need your support.
Executive orders are a “quick and dirty” way to impose policy, evading the open but lengthy public process of moving legislation through the House and Senate to enact a statute or using that statute as the authority for an executive agency’s administrative rule-making process. To date, President Biden has signed into force more executive orders in his first weeks in office than several other presidents have signed throughout their entire presidencies.
BRC wants to know, why the rush? If there’s one constant in government policy change, it’s that haste makes waste. There’s simply no pressing need for immediate all-out alteration of monument boundaries, particularly while the nation remains on an emergency footing meeting the many challenges brought to us by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is not the time to heap even more economic dislocation onto communities and families already devastated by the many disruptions we are still experiencing as a result of the pandemic.
BRC’s objection to considering further change to the boundaries of the Bears Ears (BENM) and Grand Staircase-Escalante (GSENM) national monuments stem from the following:
- All federally-managed lands outside the existing monument boundaries are more than adequately protected by numerous resource protection statutes and regulations.
- Archeological resources outside the existing monument boundaries are protected under the Archeological Resources Protection Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act protect the region’s antiquities far more effectively than national monument designation under the Antiquities Act, whose provisions were found unconstitutionally vague, making them unenforceable.
- The Antiquities Act constrains the president to designating national monument size limited to the smallest area compatible with the care and management of the objects to be protected. Both the BENM and the GSENM were originally designated with areas far in excess of the statutorily limited area contemplated by the Act.
- A president’s designation of a federally-managed area as a national monument leads to myriad restrictions on public use as a result of the purely discretionary action of a single government official, with little recourse to the individual citizen or the local communities that suffer the inevitable economic and social losses.
- Although the exercise of valid existing rights, including livestock grazing are expressly authorized, recreation, recreational access, and access to inholdings and other valid existing interests are only implied, not expressly authorized.
We are already gearing up for what will clearly be a serious undertaking, and we can only succeed if we have unprecedented public support. We know that for many who have been living under the burden of Antiquities Act abuse it is easy to reach the point of feeling defeated. Those who promote National Monuments seem to have unlimited budgets and widespread blinkered support from the media. But now is not the time to give up.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently signaled that there is an appetite in the Supreme Court to revisit ambiguous phrases within the Antiquities Act that have resulted in abuse. Right now is the most important time to make sure we have positioned those with legal standing to challenge Antiquities Act abuse to protect their rights, their property, and their communities.
Here are the ways you can help us succeed in this monumental effort:
- Sign the petition below. If you will be directly impacted by monument designations, it is crucial that you let us know. We will send regular updates on our effort and additional ways you can help us.
- Donate to support the effort. We know those who support monuments have the ability to direct billions to the effort. We know we can make a significant impact for a lot less. Please consider making a small recurring donation to help us get this effort across the finish line.
- Share this message with others and help us recruit others to the cause. Because we have limited time, the faster this movement grows, the more effective we will be. We will do everything we can to spread this message through paid advertising and other means. But if you help us spread the message for free, we can use the resources we would allocate towards advertising to cover other more critical costs.