Policy Update May 2, 2017

Position on the Antiquities Act

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Committee on Natural Resources ahead of an oversight hearing on May 2, 2017.

NPCA supports of the Antiquities Act, a law used to protect some of our most iconic land and most important history. To dismantle it is nothing short of a betrayal to the American people and the land and history we’ve spent generations protecting.

For over one hundred years, the Antiquities Act has been used as a bipartisan conservation tool. The law was created by Congress to allow the president to permanently protect federally owned historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments. With the exception of the Organic Act of 1916, no law has had more influence over the development of the modern National Park System and our other public lands than the Antiquities Act.

The Antiquities Act has withstood the test of time and has been used by presidents of both parties; eight Republicans and eight Democrats have designated 157 national monuments under this authority. This includes nationally significant cultural, historic, and natural sites such as, the Grand Canyon and Acadia National Parks, Statue of Liberty and Muir Woods National Monuments, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. In fact, many of our nation’s most popular and iconic national parks were first protected using the Antiquities Act. More recently, the Antiquities Act has been used to include more diverse stories in the National Park System through the designations of Stonewall, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality, and César E. Chávez National Monuments. Imagine what our country would be like without these incredible places, protected just as they should be.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

NPCA worked for more than four years with the Elliotsville Plantation Inc. (EPI), the foundation that donated the land, to advocate for the protection of the Katahdin Woods and Waters region. The now national monument’s vast boreal forests, abundant wildlife and wild rivers make it an exceptional new addition to the National Park System. The central feature of the new monument is the East Branch of the Penobscot River, a traditional transportation corridor of the native Wabanaki people of the region, as well as a critical part of the area’s logging history, once used to float logs downstream to mills. The park captures a distinctive part of Maine’s beauty and history.

Roughly 1,400 people participated in public meetings led by Sen. Angus King and Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to discuss and get their questions answered about the proposal with a vast majority of those participants in favor of creating a national monument in the region. Additionally, the monument is supported by the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Katahdin Rotary Club, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor City Council and the Maine Innkeepers Association.

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument protects a vulnerable region in Southeast Utah that shares the landscape with Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Natural Bridges National Monument and Canyonlands National Park. The national monument designation protects this land from the very real threat of mining and oil and gas drilling within sight of nearby parks, as well as from looting of important Native American cultural resources.

As evidenced by documents obtained by members of the House Natural Resources Committee, the lands protected by the Bears Ears National Monument underwent a lengthy process of review and consideration by the administration, the Utah delegation, and others. The public meeting to discuss the protection of public lands in the region, attended by all of the land management agencies between the Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hosted over 1500 people, the clear majority of whom supported the monument proposal. The designation of Bears Ears National Monument came only after six years of community dialogue, public meetings and the introduction of legislation. In the end, the national monument ensures the sacred lands of our first Americans are protected and their stories are told, while also maintaining the ecological and recreational values of the landscape.

The benefits of national monument protections go far beyond the sites themselves. In fact, national parks national parks saw a record 331 million visits, contributing nearly $35 billion to the U.S. economy. And the Outdoor Industry Association 2017 report found that outdoor recreation alone generates $887 billion in consumer spending and supporting 7.6 million jobs annually. Altering the authority, or exempting certain states from the critical federal lands conservation statute, would not serve the American people and the public lands and waters that they continue to enjoy year after year.

NPCA is adamantly opposed to any attempts to rescind or alter the size of any one of our country’s national monuments, as well as any attempts to alter the original law. These efforts are out of step with public opinion, national monuments belong to all Americans, to tell our stories, boost local economies and protect countless cultural, historic and natural resources.