Energy & Environment

Trump creates national monument in Kentucky

President Trump created a national monument to protect a Civil War camp in Kentucky on Friday, designating his first national monument as president.

Camp Nelson, in central Kentucky's Nicholasville, was a supply depot and hospital for the Union Army during the 1860s, and later served as a major recruiting center for African-American troops, as well as a refuge for freed slaves. The Obama administration made it a National Historic Landmark District in 2013.

"Today, the site is one of the best-preserved landscapes and archeological sites associated with United States Colored Troops recruitment and the refugee experiences of African American slaves seeking freedom during the Civil War," Trump wrote in a proclamation creating the 373-acre site, which was donated to the federal government by Jessamine County.

"Camp Nelson reminds us of the courage and determination possessed by formerly enslaved African Americans as they fought for their freedom."

It is the first time since Trump became president in January 2017 that he has exercised his authority to create a new monument under the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents nearly limitless power to protect federal land from harm or development.

He has sharply criticized some of former President Obama's national monuments, which protected large swaths of land and ocean. Obama used the law to protect more land and water area than any other president.

"Past administrations have severely abused the purpose, spirit, and intent of a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act," Trump said in December 2017, when he ordered that the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in southern Utah be slashed in size.

"These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here, and make this place their home," he said. "The results have been very sad and very predictable."

In contrast to the Utah monuments, Camp Nelson is relatively small.

In addition, the House passed legislation nearly unanimously earlier this year sponsored by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) to turn it into a monument. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced matching legislation in the upper chamber, but it has not had a vote.

Barr, who represents the district that includes Camp Nelson, is running neck-and-neck for reelection against his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose National Park Service will manage the new national monument, is traveling Saturday to the site to celebrate the designation with Barr.

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