03.26.14

H.R. 1459 – The “Preventing New Parks” Bill, Up For House Vote Today

Today, a vote for the “Preventing New Parks” bill, (H.R. 1459) stands as a direct assault on our National Parks, National Monuments and public lands conservation heritage. H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act or “EPIC,” spells just that—an epic fail for protecting our public lands.

 

Every President since its passage—in equal number from both parties—has used the Antiquities Act, protecting for future generations iconic American lands and stories ranging from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

 

The Preventing New Parks bill undermines the President’s ability and guts the Antiquities Act—our nation’s most important conservation tool. Under an arbitrary provision of the bill that limits the number of monument designations in a given state to one per presidential term, it would have been impossible for President Theodore Roosevelt to use the Antiquities Act as he did to protect the Grand Canyon. If passed, this arbitrary restriction would mean that the President would be prohibited from responding to the local community and protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

 

Ironically, the legislation is scheduled for a House vote just days after the one year anniversary of five national monuments which have been widely praised, including two additions to the National Conservation Lands: New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and Washington’s San Juan Islands. Both of these recent additions were designated using the Antiquities Act.

 

In addition to protecting our most scientifically and culturally important public lands, national monuments can be a powerful engine for economic growth in nearby communities, especially since monuments within the National Conservation Lands allow a multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities including hunting, hiking and heritage tourism.  Following the March 2013 designation of Rio Grande del Norte, visitation to the area increased by 40%. Similarly, usage of the mountain biking and equestrian trails at Fort Ord National Monument has increased since the designation there in 2012.

 

Ken Burns and CLF board member Dayton Duncan, creators of the documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, link the past and the present in their recent op-ed on the Antiquities Act: “Upon his first visit to the Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt offered this advice about the geological marvel before him: ‘Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.’ The same applies to the Antiquities Act, now more than a century old. Leave it as it is.”

 

For more than a century the Antiquities Act has helped protect our country’s world-renowned scenery and historical heritage. In stark contrast, the Preventing New Parks bill would serve as the biggest rollback of our nation’s ability to conserve land in more than a century.

 

Let this not be the public lands legacy this Congress leaves our children. Leave the Antiquities Act as it is.