On Tuesday, Congressman Don Young (R-AK) introduced House Resolution 330, which would remove the President’s authority to create national monuments and place it under Congressional approval. Critics are calling HR 330 the “No More National Parks” bill.
HR 330 specifically amends the 1906 Antiquities Act, which has allowed the last 16 presidents (both Republican and Democrat) to protect public lands and historic sites and establish marine protected areas (MPA) where commercial fishing is prohibited. Think Progress has an excellent breakdown of the 13 national monuments President Obama has established since taking office. Thus far, Obama has protected over 260 million acres of land and water, “more than any other President since 1906,” the site reports.
HR 330 would require lands slated for protection to undergo extensive environmental reviews prior to Congressional approval. It should be noted that the current head of the Senate’s Environment Committee is noted science-denier Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who has called global warming “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.”
HR 330 would also require approval from nearby state governments prior to the creation of any proposed marine monument, such as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which Obama recently expanded into the largest MPA in the world.
This is not the first time the House has tried to hamstring the White House from protecting public lands. Last year, it passed legislation that would limit how many national monuments the President can designate per term. However, since sweeping both houses of Congress in the 2014 midterms with over $721 million in fossil fuel money, Republicans have wasted no time pursuing an anti-environmental crusade. Upon his reelection, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the media that his top priority would be to “get the EPA reined in.”
“The new Congress is already moving quickly on an agenda backed by fossil-fuel interests that would weaken protections for clean air and clean water, roll back investments in renewable energy, fast track exports of American oil, and prioritize special interest giveaways on America’s public lands,” said former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Counselor to the Center for American Progress and President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “The fossil-fuel agenda of the new Congress is out of step with public opinion and it’s out of step with the priorities of middle-class families who want more renewable energy, cleaner air for their kids, and places that will be set aside for future generations to enjoy.”
In a press release, Alex Taurel, Deputy Legislative Director at the League of Conservation Voters, decried the ‘No More National Parks’ bill: “Americans value our National Parks and iconic areas like Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty, but this legislation would attack the century-old law that has helped protect them. By introducing this bill, Rep. Young has proven how out of step with the American people he truly is.”
In a recent poll by Hart Research Associates, 58 percent of voters said the federal government should “focus more on protecting public lands and national places from overdevelopment,” compared to 28 percent that wanted to use the lands for oil and natural gas drilling. In the same poll, 73 percent of voters opposed selling national forests or public lands to balance the budget, 71 percent opposed drilling in national parks and 69 percent opposed the creation of new national parks, wilderness areas and monuments.
In late December, Obama said that he will veto any Republican legislation that attempts to derail his gains in healthcare or the environment.