What is the background on the National Monuments Designation?
Currently, the Antiquities Act allows the President near-unchecked authority to designate new national monuments on federal lands. While meant to fend off potential destruction and theft of U.S. archeological landmarks, monument designations have been used indiscriminately, resulting in the severe restriction of multiple uses such as grazing. Additionally, they have had multiple adverse effects on adjacent private property.
There are now 71 national monuments in 26 states, spanning roughly 136 million acres. In early 2010, a Department of Interior document was leaked, which included a list of 14 areas in the West for possible designation as National Monuments by President Obama. The proposed areas span about 13 million acres and include proposed purchase of a number of private land holdings. The administration has refused to release all documents relating to the monument plans.
What is the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act of 2011?
The National Monument Designation Transparency Act, H.R. 758 or S. 407, would bring transparency to the monuments designation process and restore balance by requiring congressional approval. It would require:
- Congressional approval within two years of designation
- Designation of only “the smallest area necessary to ensure the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”
- The dissemination of notices to Congress, governors, local governments and tribes within the boundaries of the proposed monument
- Economic analysis in the affected areas
- Public hearings and a specified "comment period”
The National Monument Designation Transparency Act would also ensure that:
- Restrictions on land rights would be very narrowly tailored to ensure the objects’ protection
- Repetitive designation proposals would be disallowed