House Republicans begin probe of monuments law

House Republicans begin probe of monuments law
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Top Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday outlined potential reforms for the Antiquities Act as the Interior Department kicks off its review of the law. 

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), the chair of the committee’s federal lands panel, said “ongoing abuses of the Antiquities Act are antithetical” to the committee’s goals of expanding public access to federal lands and managing them along with local governments. 

He proposed amending the law — which allows the president to unilaterally protect land or water owned by the federal government — to set acreage limits on monuments or require more input from local and state governments before allowing for such designations. 

“As is often the case with small grants of power to the executive, those grants can often expand to absurd overreaches,” McClintock said. 

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The panel’s Tuesday hearing comes as the Trump administration begins its review of the 110-year-old Antiquities Act and all the large monument designations made under that law since 1996. The review aims to propose potential legislative reforms to the law. 

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration’s use of the law, including major monument designations in Maine and Utah. 

In 2016, Obama designated the 87,500 acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine. The state's governor, Republican Paul LePage, noted Tuesday that some local officials had opposed that designation, and the Maine Legislature approved a bill in 2015 calling for state approval before the federal government could establish a monument there. 

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction| House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse| Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal Overnight Energy: Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction| House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse| Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse MORE (R-Utah), who supports amending the Antiquities Act to allow for more local input, highlighted tribal opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument that Obama designated in his state last December. 

“I hope that those listening today will remember these voices, the ones that have been excluded from this conversation and the ones that President Obama ignored when he designated Bears Ears National Monument,” he said.

Democrats have broadly supported maintaining the Antiquities Act. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) predicted there would be “significant opposition from the American people” if Trump or his administration tried to roll back any of the Obama-era monument designations. 

“I actually think a review, if done in good faith, might actually teach us something about the board base of support for national monuments and the Antiquities Act,” she said. 

“I am concerned this executive order and this hearing are the beginning of future efforts to erode or strip away the authority of the Antiquities Act.”