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Ag groups speak out against land grabAg groups speak out against land grab

Organizations ask Trump and Congress for revisions to Antiquities Act for national monument proclamations.

Jacqui Fatka

January 10, 2017

3 Min Read
Ag groups speak out against land grab
Chimney Rock in the San Juan National Forest in Southwest Colorado was designated a national monument on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.USDA

A coalition of 19 groups with vital interests in protecting the multiple uses of the nation’s public lands urged President-elect Donald Trump to work with Congress to pass legislation to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments.

According to the letter, the coalition stated that the designation of lands as national monuments or a similar designation without input from communities affected by the decision “can lead — and, in fact, has led — to devastating reductions in economic activity and the loss of jobs in resource-dependent communities.”

The letter follows the introduction Jan. 6 of the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act, championed by Senate Energy & Natural Resources chair Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska). The bill, which has 25 co-sponsors, would require congressional and state approval for the designation of any new monument.

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the President has the power to unilaterally designate national monuments without the consent of Congress, state or local governments or affected stakeholders. These designations often come with overreaching and restrictive management provisions in the name of environmental protections. President Barack Obama has taken full advantage of his executive power, using the Antiquities Act more than any other president before him and locking up millions of acres.

“Executive branch abuse of the Antiquities Act has moved far beyond its original intent, with devastating effects for local economies – particularly in rural areas of the West,” Tracy Brunner, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. president, said. “It’s unacceptable for any president to have this much unilateral authority over land management decision-making; impacted local communities and the American people deserve a seat at the table as well.”

“The size and magnitude of recent monument designations grossly fail to meet the intent of Congress and objective of the law,” the letter said. The coalition told Trump that landowners, grazing permitees, loggers, forest products companies, miners and local governments should be fully involved as affected partners in any process to execute federal land use designations that restrict public use and access.

“The lack of local or congressional input and approval of a president’s monument designation often generates significant controversy and economic hardship at the local level,” the coalition stated. “Unfortunately, the law does not provide explicit requirements for the president to consult with local and state authorities. The detrimental effects of a monument designation frequently cause residents, elected state and county officials and local stakeholders who have major interests in the lands to push Congress for reform.”

Specifically, the groups said they would work toward congressional revisions of the Antiquities Act to require that any presidential national monument proclamation be subject to congressional approval and limited to no more than 5,000 acres, per the original intent of the act. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration locked up more than 5.6 million acres of (non-aquatic) land through use of the Antiquities Act to designate or expand additional monuments.

“We strongly oppose the ongoing misuse of the Antiquities Act by the executive branch and request your administration to work swiftly to resolve these conflicts and work with Congress to pass legislation to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments,” the coalition told Trump. “Such reform will ensure that the will of local communities are respected and true American antiquities can be protected.”

“Public land ranchers own nearly 120 million acres of private land and manage more than 250 million acres of land under management of the federal government,” Public Lands Council president Dave Eliason said. “These ranchers provide food and fiber for the nation, protect open spaces and critical wildlife habitat and promote healthy watersheds for the public. Sen. Murkowski’s bill is critical to protecting local input into decisions that can make or break a community.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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