Public Input in National Monument Designations
March 28, 2014 

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prevent the President from making vast, unilateral special land designations without thorough public review of the potential environmental, social and economic impacts.

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906 - as interpreted today - the President has the unfettered authority to make "national monument" designations. Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah) introduced The Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act (EPIC) (H.R. 1459) that would amend the Antiquities Act to require that potential monument designations of 5,000 acres or more be given full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA reviews include in-depth analysis of the impacts of a proposed action - as well as the opportunity for local government and public involvement in the decision-making process.

While intended to protect small, defined areas that are historically or scientifically unique and important, abuse of the Antiquities Act by Presidents has led to vast monument designations that are outside the original intent of the law. Large monument designations have had devastating impacts on local economies and culture due to the restrictions they place on productive uses of the land. Applying NEPA to large proposed designations would ensure that the public was made aware of those impacts and given the opportunity for input.

The EPIC Act would also allow a President no more than one monument designation per state, per term. While it would not require NEPA review for designations smaller than 5,000 acres, it would place a 3-year expiration date on those designations unless the designation is approved by Congress. Additionally, it would require any monument designation to be followed by a study estimating long-term management costs and potential loss in federal and state revenue. Finally, it would not allow monuments to include private property without the informed written consent of the affected private property owner.

The Public Lands Council, or which the American Sheep Industry Association is a member, supports this legislation and encourages the Senate to take up the bill without delay.