Editors note: This is the third in a three part series looking at the myths perpetuated in the national discussion about national monuments and the Antiquities Act.
By Corey Fisher
The issue of national monuments and the Antiquities Act tends to elicit passionate responses, both for and against. It also spurs misconceptions. Here are some of the most widely perpetuated myths about national monuments.
Monumental Myth #9: National monuments hurt local economies.
Fact: The outdoor industry accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs, making it one of the largest economic sectors of the U.S. Local communities near national monuments have leveraged this large and growing sector of the economy to help diversify and build their economies. For instance, following the 2013 designation of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, tourist visitation to the area increased by 40 percent. Moreover, studies conducted by Headwaters Economics in 2011, 2014 and 2017 found that local economies adjacent to the seventeen national monuments experienced growth following the designation of the monuments and the studies found no evidence that national monuments stifled economic growth.
Monumental Myth #10: The Antiquities Act is outdated and needs to be reformed.
Fact: Since being signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act has proven to be one of the most successful tools for conservation in American history. Like any tool, it must be used appropriately, but it is important to keep this tool available for those times and places it is needed. Quality hunting and fishing on public lands face many threats, ranging from those who want to sell public lands to proposals that would dramatically cut budgets for managing America’s lands.
With these and many other challenges before us, one thing that hunters and anglers don’t need is Congress to take away one of our most valuable tools for conserving our public lands. Likewise, repealing or diminishing any national monument would be both legally questionable and a bad precedent which could jeopardize some of our nation’s best habitat and sporting opportunities.
Monumental Myth #11: Presidents can repeal or shrink national monuments.
Fact: When Congress passed the Antiquities Act in 1906, they delegated to presidents the authority to create national monuments, but did not delegate the authority to reduce or eliminate monuments. In other words, the Antiquities Act is a one-way street.
It makes sense: a designation doesn’t do any good if protections can be stripped on the whim of a future administrations.
While on a handful of occasions past presidents have diminished the size of national monuments, none have done so since the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which reserved for Congress the authority to modify or revoke national monuments. Accordingly, Congress can modify or repeal a national monument as they see fit. Congress is the check on the Executive Branch and is the appropriate venue to address changes to a national monument.
Monumental Myth #12: National monuments should not be designated because they aren’t funded.
Fact: All types of public lands are chronically underfunded, including national parks, fish and wildlife refuges, national forests and BLM lands. This is not an issue unique to national monuments, this is a problem across the board for our public lands and it is critical that Congress provide the resources necessary for land management agencies to be good stewards.