House committee advances bill that would gut Antiquities Act

The House Natural Resources Committee voted 23-17 today to advance a bill today which would endanger the future of the Antiquities Act and public lands conserved as National Monuments.

The Act was signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Since then it has been a bipartisan tool – used by 16 presidents, half Democrats half Republicans – to provide protections to public lands with natural, historic and cultural importance. The act has been of great importance to hunters and anglers by conserving vital fish and wildlife habitat.

The National Monument Creation and Protection Act undermines the fundamental purpose of the Antiquities Act and the bill is in conflict with how the act has been used since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, said Corey Fisher, public lands policy director for Trout Unlimited. The Antiquities Act is a powerful tool for the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat, and while it needs to be used in the right way and in the right place, H.R. 3990 takes away the tool altogether.

The bill would:

  • Change the meaning of the law to only include protections for “objects” such as relics, fossils and artifacts, excluding values such as fish and wildlife habitat as reasons to conserve public lands as National Monuments.

  • Establishes arbitrary acreage thresholds for new monuments.

  • Require sign-off from county and state officials.

  • Limits the flexibility of public land managers to be responsive to change and adjust management strategies for uses such as oil and gas development and mining.

  • Provide presidents with new authority to reduce or alter existing national monuments.

Its time we focus our efforts on developing lasting and collaborative solutions to address public land management challenges instead of trying to dismantle a successful bipartisan tool for conserving fish and wildlife habitat, Fisher said. Where there are challenges, lets meet them. Where there are problems, lets solve them. But gutting the Antiquities Act doesnt bring people together to find common ground, it only drives ideological wedges where would should be working together to conserve our public lands hunting and fishing heritage.

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