The creation of new national parks will come to end or at the very least, be made vastly more difficult, if a bill sponsored by House Republicans and expected to be voted upon in the GOP-controlled legislative body this week ever becomes law.
Angered by the fact that President Barack Obama used the authority all presidents have held since the Antiquities Act passed in 1906 to protect public lands by designating certain areas as national monuments — in effect, new national parks — Republicans led by Utah congressman Rob Bishop are pushing a bill, H.R. 1459, that would effectively overturn the 108-year-old act which was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt — himself one of the most important figures in Republican Party history.
Roosevelt became the first president to use the Antiquities Act when he designated the distinctive Wyoming rick formation known as Devil’s Tower a national monument in 1906. Roosevelt also employed the Antiquities Act to preserve the Grand Canyon as a protected national monument. The Grand Canyon is now one of America’s most treasured national park areas.
But after Obama used the Act to create five new national monuments last year and then last week, to protect an expanded area of California Coastal National Monument on the scenic Mendocino Coast, Bishop and other House Republicans have moved to gut the Antiquities Act.
“The President’s use of the Antiquities Act to expand the Coastal California National Monument is disappointing to say the least,” said Bishop, who added that by designating the area a National Monument, Obama “punked” the House.
The Republican bill would not only limit how many times a president may use the Antiquities Act, it would also require congress to give a thumbs up or down on the president’s decisions on new national parks and monuments.
Obama has used the Antiquities Act 10 times in his presidency. George W. Bush used it to create five new national monuments, while Bill Clinton created 19 new national parks via the Antiquities Act during his eight years in office, and he expanded three other protected areas under the 1906 Act.
Congress has the authority to protect lands as new national parks, but until last week when it passed a bill to protect Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes, congress had not protected a single piece of American land since 2009.
If the House passes the “no new national parks” bill, it is expected to die in the Senate, and Obama would be certain to veto it anyway.