February 3 2017
With less than a month to go in office, President Obama set aside 1.65 million acres of federal land under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Neither Congress nor the local communities affected by these new national monuments were consulted.
President Obama was particularly audacious in his use of the Antiquities Act of 1906—setting aside a record 553 million acres of federal land and water for special protection, but other Presidents have also made liberal use of this law in the waning days of their administrations. President Johnson, for example, added 264,000 to Arches and Capitol Reef National Monuments ninety minutes before he left office. These Presidential Proclamations routinely spark outrage from the local communities (and their legislators) who are offered no procedural protections.
President Trump can and should examine President Obama’s monument designations to determine whether they are consistent with the Antiquities Act. If they are not, he should rescind or modify them.
Congress, too, can and should act. Under the Property Clause of the United States Constitution, Congress is given sole authority to manage federal lands. There is no question that Congress can rescind the monument designations. But it should go much farther and repeal the Antiquities Act of 1906.