Merkley, Wyden Join Introduction of New Legislation to Protect National Monuments from Trump Administration’s Attempts to Roll Back Protections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced today that they have joined a group of 18 senators in introducing legislation to enhance protections for national monuments against the Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on public lands. The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018 reinforces Congress’ intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: Only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation. 

The Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on America’s national monuments include a looming threat to shrink and slash protections for Oregon’s treasured Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

“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.”

“Iconic monuments like Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou earned their well-deserved designation after significant public process and with deep community support. The unilateral decision by the Trump administration to target these designations runs completely counter to the very idea of local input,” said Wyden. “This bill builds on the existing national monuments designations under attack by this administration and sends a very clear message to Secretary Zinke that local voices will not be ignored.”

S. 2354, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018, protects and enhances national monuments in three main provisions:

-It officially declares Congress’ support for the 51 national monuments established by presidents in both parties between January 1996 and April 2017 under their authority established by the Antiquities Act of 1906.

-It reinforces that existing law clearly states that presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished, except by an act of Congress.

-It further enhances protections for the presidentially designated national monuments by 1) requiring that they be surveyed, mapped and that management plans be completed in two years—in the same manner as congressionally designated national monuments—and 2) that they receive additional resources to ensure that they will continue to meet their full potential of providing unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to their states and to the nation.

A summary of the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018 can be found here

The ANTIQUITIES Act comes in response to President Trump’s announcement that he will eliminate 2 million acres of protections for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history. Trump took this action despite the fact that Americans across the country overwhelmingly voiced support for keeping the monuments intact. During the administration’s public comment process, over 99 percent of the 2.8 million comments received were in favor of maintaining existing protections for our national monuments. Additionally, an Interior Department report showed that Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending stripping protections from additional monuments, including Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

National monuments and America’s protected public lands help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, which sustains 7.6 million jobs and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue.

In addition to Merkley and Wyden, the ANTIQUITIES Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).