Americans deserve to enjoy a variety of benefits from our nation’s abundant, while increasingly pressured, public lands. 

Top-down national monument designations can result in severe restriction on access to public lands and economic disruption to surrounding communities.  States and affected stakeholders where a monument could be located must play a key role in the decision-making process.  A recent Executive Order issued by President Trump would help with this objective by providing for the review of national monument designations and expansions with an emphasis on considering local involvement.

The Executive Order acknowledges that the designation of national monuments, “have substantial impact on the management of Federal lands and the use and enjoyment of neighboring lands.”  Specifically, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior is directed to review all national monument designations or expansions made since 1996 that either exceed 100,000 acres or were made without adequate public consultation to ensure the monuments adhere to federal law. 

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is charged with submitting an interim report within 45 days and a final report within 120 days with recommendations to remediate any issues identified.  Importantly, the Executive Order identifies issues the Secretary must consider in the review that include, “concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities.” 

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes U.S. Presidents to unilaterally designate national monuments in the interest of preserving lands containing historic landmarks, buildings and structures, as well as other objects of historic or scientific interest.  However, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that under the law, “The President is to reserve ‘the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’”  The far-reaching use of this authority to designate national monuments via sweeping executive directives from Washington, D.C., has been justly contentious in the West.

In January, I reintroduced legislation to address concerns with unilateral presidential designations of national monuments without the input of affected communities or other local stakeholders.  S. 132, the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, would amend the Antiquities Act to require congressional and state approval of proposed national monuments on federal lands and certified completion of provisions included in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 prior to making any presidential proclamations.  Additionally, the legislation would prohibit restrictions regarding public use of a national monument without congressional approval and appropriate review and public comment periods.  Fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) is a co-sponsor of this legislation, and Representative Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) introduced companion legislation, H.R. 2284, in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Collaboration, bringing diverse interests—resource users, conservationists, local people and governments, advocacy organizations, federal and state governments and more—to the table to hash out solutions, is the most effective process for resolving natural resource conflicts.  Several collaborative efforts are currently hard at work in Idaho.  Collaborative initiatives are very difficult to do and do not always work out, but they can result in lasting, publicly-supported resource management decisions.  Federal policy simply must leave room for collaboratives to succeed.

President Trump’s Executive Order that recognizes that any national monument designations must, “appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities,” is a welcome step in the effort to ensure that national monument designations are properly limited and based on local decision-making.