Arizonans Agree...No New National Monument
During President Obama’s two terms in office, we have undoubtedly witnessed the rise of the greatest threat to our Republic: the unprecedented abuse of Executive overreach. The president has openly bragged about using his “phone and pen” as a loophole to avoid the Constitution, the legislative process and accountability to the American people. It is a dangerous precedent that is nearly impossible to undo.
One of the powers given to the president is the ability to set aside land for monuments and national parks which comes from the outdated Antiquities Act of 1906. This law was originally intended to protect prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on federal lands in the West and included language to limit these designations to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects.” President Obama has exceeded the intent of the Antiquities Act more than any other president. To date, he has designated or expanded 27 national monuments. These unilateral declarations have locked up 548,744,157.31 acres of land and water. There is no possible way that 548 million acres is “the smallest area compatible” for these new monuments.
National monument designations under the Antiquities Act typically have significant consequences for energy development, grazing rights, water rights, wildfire prevention and other important land management activities. These declarations also result in some of the most restrictive land-use regulations possible and negatively affect hunting, fishing, OHV and other recreational activities. Unilateral designations that circumvent Congress typically result in devastating costs for rural America and our future economic prosperity. For every new acre claimed for the federal government, there is an acre of private land lost. Such actions exacerbate challenges for local communities to fund things like education and infrastructure as lands that are added to the federal rolls can no longer be put to beneficial use.
Since 2010, extremist environmental groups have been pushing a far-left proposal that explicitly seeks to lock-up 1.7 million acres in the Grand Canyon Watershed. Shamefully, proponents have lied to the American people by stating this idea was initiated by tribal governments. This proposal was put forth by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Wilderness Society. The real intentions of these shortsighted self-interest groups are clear as they boldly state in their communications that this land grab is needed to prevent hunting, fishing, mining, timber harvesting, OHV use, grazing and energy development on this massive swath of land.
To put the size of this land grab in perspective, the proposed 1.7 million acre Grand Canyon Watershed Monument would be significantly larger than the 1.2 million acre Grand Canyon National Park. It’s a watershed though so there will be no new monies from Congress, no significant tourism dollars and no significant jobs created as a result of this land grab. It’s important to remember that the Grand Canyon National Park is already protected by the Grand Canyon Protection Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act as well as multiple other regulations and laws. The proposed national monument is miles away from the actual Grand Canyon itself.
In April, I held a listening session on this potential monument where hundreds of people showed up in person and watched live on Facebook to voice their opposition. Jim Parks, representing the Arizona Farm Bureau, testified, “Within the bounds of the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument are over 64,000 acres of Arizona State Trust lands and almost 28,000 acres of private land. This alone violates federal and state laws, as it amounts to a ‘taking’ of these state and private lands.” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey stated, “The Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument [proposal] is not narrow, targeted, warranted, or being considered through an open cooperative public process.”
Eric Duthie, Town Manager of the Town of Tusayan, testified, “Tusayan would become the only municipality entirely swallowed up in this monument.” Bob Lynch, an Arizona water law expert, stated, “The designation will only complicate the ability of the United States and the State of Arizona to work together to improve [the Four Forest Restoration Initiative] for watershed purposes and to protect it from catastrophic wildfire...Designation of the monument will tie up not only any future surface water use but any future groundwater use as well.”
This widespread opposition was confirmed in April of this year by a scientific poll conducted by Coleman Dahm and Associates which found that 71.6% of Arizonans are against the proposed national monument. While some special-interest groups have commissioned push polls and manipulated job numbers in attempting to show support for this misguided proposal, Arizonans have made it clear that they oppose this land grab and that future management of this area should be driven by a collaborative process that includes local stakeholders. Affected communities deserve to have a voice in the land designation process before President Obama circumvents Congress and bars the people of Arizona from even more land.
Rep. Paul Gosar represents Arizona’s 4th District and is a member of the Natural Resources Committee.