Curtis Bill Enhances Antiquities Protections, Creates First Ever Tribally-Managed National Monument
“While it is difficult to overstate how politicized the creation and management of our national monuments has become, I believe all sides of this debate share many common goals,” Rep. Curtis stated. “These goals include a high priority on protecting and preserving both antiquities and the natural beauty of this area, as well as maintaining traditional uses of the land.”
In in the waning days of office, President Obama unilaterally designated the BENM against the will of Utah’s elected leaders, local stakeholders and tribes.
Despite empty promises to the contrary, the original BENM proclamation did not bestow tribal co-management. Instead, the proclamation created a token advisory role for tribes and no legal or official decision making authority.
“There is no one who cares for the land more than we do, the local residents and native people of San Juan County. It is the people who live closest to the land that understand the land best and should have a voice in how lands are managed,” Member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Suzette Morris stressed.
Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), described the Bears Ears Commission, the tribal advisory board established under the original BENM proclamation, as a scam.
“The Commission is a fraud, it’s a sham. They get to advise, but the advice can easily be rejected. Land managers have the ability to arbitrarily change things and there is nothing tribes can do about it,” Chairman Bishop argued.
Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) questioned Ms. Morris on whether local tribes were consulted by the Obama administration prior to the BENM designation and whether tribal co-management was ever achieved. “No,” Morris answered.
President Trump signed an Executive Order in April 2017, requiring a review of recent monument designations to determine whether they were consistent with the “original objectives” of the Antiquities Act. The review asserted, among other conclusions, that BENM’s size was not the "smallest area compatible" with care of the objects requiring protection, as required under the Act, and that tribes did not have an "adequate role" in managing the monument.
On December 4, 2017, President Trump signed a proclamation to protect identified antiquities in the region with the creation of two new separate, more targeted monuments: the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument. To codify those actions and prevent future administrations from arbitrarily modifying the monument boundaries, congressional action is required.
“We now find ourselves with a reset and the opportunity to move forward with a legislative process for protecting this area,” Governor of Utah Gary Herbert stressed. “If we really care about protecting the antiquities and archeological artifacts… if we really care about giving native Americans co-management responsibility, it has to be done legislatively.”
"Without congressional action, Bears Ears, Shash Jaa and Indian Creed will be relegated to nothing more than political footballs being punted back and forth with each presidential adminstration. Nobody wins in that scenario – not the archeological resources, not the environment and certainly not the people of San Juan County,” Director of the Coalition for Self-Government in the West of the Sutherland Institute Matt Anderson stated.
H.R. 4532 codifies the newly-created monuments and establishes the Shash Jaa Tribal Management Council, made up of a minimum of four local tribal members, guaranteeing tribal input in management decisions.
“H.R. 4532 will finally empower the voices who have been silenced in the debate, and those are the tribes of the local tribes who actually live in San Juan County,” Morris said.
The bill maintains the existing 1.35 million acre mineral withdrawal under the original BENM designation to “put to rest any suspicion that the monument was reduced in order to advance energy development,” Governor Herbert stated.
The bill also establishes the first-of-its-kind Archaeological Resources Protection Unit, a statutory assignment of additional law enforcement personnel, and additional federal dollars, for the exclusive protection of antiquities within monument boundaries.
Click here to view full witness testimony.
Congressman Tom McClintock
Chairman's Opening Statement - Subcommittee on Federal Lands - National Monument Legislation
January 10, 2018 - Congressman McClintock is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on January 9, 2018 on H.R. 4532 – “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act” (Curtis). Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement at the hearing:
Opening Statement of Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04)
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4532 – “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act”
January 9, 2018
Today the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to consider H.R. 4532, the Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act by Congressman John Curtis and co-sponsored by the entire Utah congressional delegation.
The overarching objectives of this subcommittee bear repeating: to restore public access to the public lands; to restore good management to the public lands, and to restore the Federal government as a good neighbor to those communities most impacted by the public lands.
The Constitution gives sole jurisdiction over the public lands to the Congress. The Antiquities Act of 1906 delegated limited authority to the President to designate national monuments on federal lands containing “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.” The law also very specifically limited monuments to “be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The aim was to protect newly-discovered archeological sites from looting.
When under consideration, members expressed concern that the act might be abused. One asked the bill’s sponsor, Congressman John Lacy, whether the act could ever be used to lock up large areas of land. He responded, “Certainly not. The object is entirely different.”
President Theodore Roosevelt first used the Antiquities Act to declare 1,200 acres around the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as a national monument.
Yet, in the waning days of the Obama Administration, without any public hearings or consultation with Congress – and in direct contravention to the wishes of the Utah Congressional Delegation, the Utah State Government, and the local governments and tribal governments in the affected jurisdictions – President Obama declared more than 1.3 million acres as the Bears Ears National Monument. This is a land area larger than the State of Delaware, and one thousand times larger than President Roosevelts’ first use of the law.
This designation carries severe restrictions on land use that limit public access and use of these public lands, that thwart good management of these lands, and that ignore the wishes of the local communities affected by these public lands.
It turns out this action was initiated by environmental groups in San Francisco, financed by millions of dollars from left-leaning foundations whose consistent purpose has been to lock the American people out of their public lands. Its constituency appears to be almost exclusively drawn from out-of-region and out-of-state interests.
Last month, President Trump modified Obama’s executive order to comport with the limitations set forth in the Antiquities Act.
Today, Congressman Curtis, backed with the unanimous support of the Utah Congressional delegation, brings us HR 4532, which re-asserts Congress’ sole constitutional authority over this issue.
It establishes two national monuments in San Juan County, Utah: the Shash Jáa National Monument (the first tribally co-managed national monument in the nation), and the Indian Creek National Monument. The bill also establishes a first-of-its-kind Archaeological Resources Protection Unit, statutorily dedicating additional law enforcement personnel and federal dollars for the exclusive protection of antiquities within the monument’s boundaries.
When the Norman and Plantagenet Kings of England locked up millions of acres of forest as the private preserve of the crown, public outrage became so great that in 1215 no fewer than five clauses of Magna Carta were devoted to redress this abuse.
The American Founders learned these lessons, and created our Constitution in which no one person would have the authority to lock up millions of acres of land with the stroke of a pen. The American public lands are the opposite of the King’s Forests – intended to preserve these lands for the people’s “use, resort and recreation…for all time” as first put forth in the Yosemite charter of 1864.
By giving Congress – and not the President – authority over public land, our Constitution guarantees that all voices will be heard when a decision affecting millions of acres of land is made.
The American people expect their government to listen to those most affected by local land use decisions, and not just out-of-state special interest groups. And they have every right to demand that Congress reassert its role over management of the lands on their behalf.
This bill seeks to right a wrong and to go about monument designation the constitutional way: through open hearings, debate and congressional action.
Source: Congressman Tom McClintock
House Natural Resources Hearing: Ominous Start of New Year for Public Lands
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House Natural Resources Committee today will hold a hearing on Rep. John Curtis’ H.R. 4532 “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act.” The bill would not only codify President Trump’s illegal cuts to Bears Ears National Monument but also delegate management of the monument to local officials and tribal representatives hand-picked by the Utah delegation, foregoing input from Tribal governments. Management plans laid out in the bill exclude three of the five tribes that advocated for Bears Ears protection.
In anticipation, Dalal Aboulhosn, Sierra Club deputy legislative director, issued the following statement:
“Today’s hearing is an ominous start to the new year for our public lands. This bill not only affirms the effective elimination of Bears Ears National Monument, but puts the fox in charge of guarding the remaining protected areas.
“We stand with the tribal governments of the Bears Ears Commission in opposing this attack on our public lands and tribal sovereignty. We will continue to work to ensure it does not pass.”
Source: Sierra Club