WASHINGTON D.C. – Rep. Chris Stewart introduced the 2013 Utah Land Sovereignty Act Friday, which would prevent the extension or establishment of national monuments in Utah without authorization from Congress. This bill adds Utah to an agreement made in 1950 between the federal government and Wyoming.
The bill is also the first legislation Stewart has proposed in Congress. In his release, Stewart wrote:
“Unlike wilderness areas, forests, national parks, and other designations, currently designations of national monuments don’t have to go through Congress. Although, the Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president the power to declare a national monument, the original intent was to protect archaeological resources of the southwest and to limit the monuments to very small geographic areas. Over the years, that limited power has morphed into huge presidential land grabs with no input from Congress or the local communities most impacted by the designation.
“Perhaps the most brazen example was when President Clinton created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument smack in the middle of Kane and Garfield Counties. At 1.9 million acres, it is the largest monument and certainly far beyond the intent of the Antiquities Act.
“Utah and other western states have uniquely beautiful lands that are indeed worthy of protection. Protection of these lands should happen with the approval of Congress, instead of through the Antiquities Act.
“Just a few weeks ago, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, discussed using the Antiquities Act to designate new national monuments in the West. This is yet another example of the arrogance of the federal government and the cavalier attitude towards federalism that pervades this Administration and its allies. In light of this, I have introduced a bill to exempt Utah from the reach of the Antiquities Act. The bill requires new national monuments in Utah to have the approval of Congress.
“This exemption is not without precedent. Because of past abuses of the Antiquities Act in Wyoming and Alaska, legislators from those states were successful in exempting those states from the Antiquities Act. The Utah Land Sovereignty Act simply adds Utah to that list.
Utah Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz, and Walter Jones of North Carolina, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming are original co-sponsors of this legislation.
For a PDF of the full text of the bill, click here.