Senators Wyden, Merkley fight for national monument protections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two Oregon lawmakers introduced legislation that aims to undermine the Trump administration’s recommendation that could lead to a smaller Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Past administrations have used the 1906 Antiquities Act to expand national monuments, notably the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which was made larger by President Obama. It now covers more than 113,000 acres in Oregon and northern California.

President Trump proclaimed such expansions abused the purpose of the 1906 Antiquities Act and took action to review and possibly overturn past expansions.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan agreed by saying, “No President should use the authority under the Antiquities Act to restrict public access, prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object,” Zinke said in a statement.

Zinke examined more than 27 national monuments. He concluded three of them should be reduced in size. Two of those monuments are in Utah, the other is the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

On December 4, 2014, President Trump acted on two of Secretary Zinke’s three recommendations. He reduced federal protections for more than two million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The administration hasn’t taken any official action on the Obama-era expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Legislators fight back

On February 2, 2018, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democrats, announced they’ve joined a group of senators in introducing legislation to “enhance protections for national monuments against the Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on public lands.”

Senate Bill 2354 was labeled the “America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018.”

“The Trump administration’s reckless attack on the future of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument’s irreplaceable biodiversity is legally dubious and unprecedented in American history,” Merkley said. “This legislation would protect Oregon’s national treasure and other public lands that are deeply cherished by the American people.”

Senate Bill 2354 affirms support for existing national monuments established between 1996 and April 2017 under the 1906 Antiquities Act. It also clearly states presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced except by an act of Congress.

Furthermore, the bill requires national monuments be surveyed, mapped and managed in the same manner as congressionally designated monuments. Extra resources are also required under the law.

A summary of the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018 can be found HERE.

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