State legislators push Obama on monuments

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A group of 230 state legislators on Tuesday encouraged President Obama to brush aside Republican opposition and designate more public lands as national monuments.

Public areas in the United States are valuable for tourism and outdoor recreation, the lawmakers said, but the threats of mining, logging and drilling put the lands at risk.

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“As legislators, we encourage action from Congress to protect these landscapes but, as you know, for the last three years Congress has passed just one bill to designate new wilderness,” they wrote.

The lawmakers praised Obama for designating the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands in California as a national monument. The March designation was controversial, and Republicans panned it as an abuse of power by the president.

That spurred the House to pass a bill that would limit the president’s power to designate national monuments, allowing only one monument per state per presidential term. The bill would also require an extensive environmental review before the designation could take effect.

But the state lawmakers told Obama he should push forward. They want him to declare the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico and Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho as monuments.

“Your administration can deliver a bold agenda for permanently protecting our most critically important cultural and natural heritage in your remaining years in office,” they wrote.

Environment American and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators organized the letter.

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