“I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”
President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address included a bold commitment to protecting clean water, wildlife and our natural heritage. In the address, the President noted that as our country moves forward, we need to balance development and conservation. This acknowledgement that some public lands as too special to develop came with a promise that the President would use his authority to protect our public lands.
In response to the remarks, Brian O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, made this statement, “We are heartened that President Obama made a strong case for conservation in his speech. With Congress unable to make progress, President Obama is the ‘Conservationist-in-Chief’.”(Read our press statement on the State of the Union).
Last year, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect five new national monuments in New Mexico, Washington, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware. These national monuments will permanently protect a diversity of lands and waters that honor our country’s heritage and conserve open space. These national monuments will also benefit local economies, protect important wildlife habitat and ensure that future generations will continue to experience America’s great outdoor heritage.
For more than 100 years, presidents of both parties have used the Antiquities Act to create more than 130 national monuments and add a layer of protection to our most important public lands including national icons like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon.
The Antiquities Act does not lessen Congress’ role and authority to protect America’s public lands and waters. However it does provide the president the ability to take action when Congress can’t – or won’t –take action. With the current dysfunction in Washington, this action is welcome and needed.
The last session of Congress was the first since World War II to fail to protect a single new acre of public land as a Park, National Monument or Wilderness. Unfortunately, halfway through this session, the 113th Congress is poised to repeat history. And yet, communities across the country, such as Point Arena, CA and Las Cruces, NM, continue to fight to see special areas of public land protected. We stand behind the President’s commitment to protecting our public lands, waters and our natural heritage.