September 30, 1997
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1127 and, if it were presented to the
President, the Secretary of the Interior would recommend that the bill be
vetoed because it would undermine the President's authority to take swift
action to protect significant natural, historical, and scientific resources on
Federal lands. H.R. 1127 would amend the Antiquities Act to require an Act of
Congress and a 180 day consultation period with the Governor for the
establishment by the President of national monuments in excess of 50,000 acres
in a single state in a calendar year.
The Antiquities Act is one of the most successful environmental laws in American history. Between 1906 and 1997, fourteen Presidents have proclaimed 105 national monuments, including the Channel Islands, Death Valley, the Edison Laboratory, the Statue of Liberty, and the C&O Canal. In this century, every President but three has made use of the Antiquities Act to protect unique Federal lands from potential harm.
The Antiquities Act has historically allowed the President to protect areas that faced very immediate and time-sensitive threats. Grand Canyon National Park was originally protected under the Antiquities Act when it was first proclaimed a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in order to protect the canyon from mining. When the coastal redwoods stands at Muir Woods in California were threatened by a condemnation lawsuit filed by a power company that wanted to flood the land for a reservoir, the Antiquities Act allowed Theodore Roosevelt to take immediate action to accept the land and protect it. Last year, Muir Woods National Monument was visited by one million people.
Historically, use of the Antiquities Act has not been without controversy. For example, each of the earlier following designations caused Congress to consider amending the Act: the designation of Jackson Hole National Monument, which is now part of Grand Teton National Park, during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration; the reservation of 56 million acres of lands in Alaska as national monuments during President Carter's administration; and the recent proclamation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is clear that without the President's authority to act quickly, many of America's grandest places would never have been protected and preserved for future generations.
The Antiquities Act has a proven track record of protecting especially sensitive Federal land and the unique natural, historic, and scientific objects they hold. These lands have become universally revered symbols of America's beauty and legacy, and the Antiquities Act should not be undermined as proposed in H.R. 1127.