Thursday, March 27, 2014

Republicans and ConservaDems Vote to Restrict Presidential Ability to Create National Monuments

Yesterday, the House passed H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act by a vote of 221 to 201. The bill is designed to stymie the presidential designation of national monuments.

In particular, the bill limits the President to one monument designation per year. It would also declare any monument designation above 5,000 acres a major federal action requiring environmental review. Republicans regularly seek to gut the process of environmental review for drilling projects and other extractive economic activity, but they seek to impose long environmental reviews on potentially time-sensitive conservation proposals.

Here is the dissent from the Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee:
H.R. 1459 is a disingenuous proposal to weaken the President's authority to establish National Monuments under the Antiquities Act. The bill would apply the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to future Presidential monument declarations. While the majority has repeatedly sought to truncate or prohibit environmental reviews for drilling and mining, H.R. 1459 aims to require heightened environmental analysis for potentially time-sensitive conservation proposals.
H.R. 1459 would deem a monument designation above 5,000 acres a major federal action, requiring environmental review. The bill also limits the President to one monument designation per state, per year. These arbitrary hurdles are only intended to undermine the Antiquities Act and slow down conservation. Congress passed the Antiquities Act of 1906 to give Presidents the latitude to protect historically and culturally significant sites. Previous Congresses understood the importance of allowing the Executive Branch to move quickly to conserve resources, particularly given the pace of Congressional action.
Sixteen Presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, have used the Antiquities Act to establish National Monuments. Some of the nation's most cherished and visited National Parks, including the Grand Canyon, were first designated National Monuments because past Presidents had the foresight to set them aside. Presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect resources central to the American story and identity, including Native American sacred sites, historic battlefields, and natural treasures like the Grand Staircase Escalante. With the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument and the Harriet Tubman National Monument, among others, recent declarations by President Obama have included sites significant to an even more diverse range of American communities.
H.R. 1459 incorrectly assumes that Presidential proclamations are done in secret, without the support of local stakeholders. Earlier this year, President Obama established five new National Monuments, all with broad support from local communities and affiliated public interest groups. At the hearing for H.R. 1459, the committee heard testimony from the Mayor of Hampton, Virginia, the site of the National Monument at Fort Monroe, established in 2011 by President Obama. The Mayor highlighted the inclusiveness of the process and the importance of the monument for her community.
In the 112th Congress, ten bills were introduced to designate monuments or protect areas as historic sites; only five of those bills were heard by the Committee and only two, both sponsored by Republicans, were put before the full House of Representatives. Three of the new monuments established by President Obama had bills filed in the House last Congress; none of those bills received a hearing.
The Majority complains about the Antiquities Act and then fails to give new monument proposals a fair hearing. The Majority opposes new monument designations before they happen, but has never sought legislation to overturn a monument after it has been designated. Given this level of dysfunction, it is more important than ever that the authority granted the President in the Antiquities Act more than a century ago remain effective.
219 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted for it. 191 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted against it. The 3 Democrats were Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Jim Matheson (UT-04), and Mike McIntyre (NC-07).

The 10 Republicans were the following:

Rodney Davis (IL-13)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Jim Gerlach (PA-06)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Michael Grimm (NY-11)
Pete King (NY-02)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Pat Meehan (PA-07)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
David Reichert (WA-08)

Niki Tsongas (MA-03) offered amendment to preserve the president's ability to declare land as a monument for the protection or conservation of historic or cultural resources related to American military history.

It failed 197 to 223. 190 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted for it. 222 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted against it.

That lone Democratic opponent was—you guessed it—Jim Matheson (UT-04).

The 7 Republicans were the following:

Charlie Dent (PA-15)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Jim Gerlach (PA-06)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Richard Hanna (NY-22)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
David Reichert (WA-08)

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