S. 31

Protect Utah’s Rural Economy Act

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 31, A BILL TO LIMIT THE ESTABLISHMENT OR EXTENSION OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS IN THE STATE OF UTAH.

JUNE 23, 2021
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Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 31, a bill to limit the establishment or extension of national monuments in the State of Utah.

The Administration strongly opposes S. 31.

S. 31 would bar the use of the Antiquities Act to extend or establish new national monuments in Utah unless the establishment or extension has been authorized by Congress, and the President has received notice from the Governor of Utah that the State legislature has enacted legislation approving the proposed establishment or extension.  The Antiquities Act authorizes presidents to establish national monuments on Federal lands to protect historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other  objects of historic or scientific interest on those lands and to reserve lands as part of such monuments to ensure the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.  By requiring the formal approval of the Utah State legislature and of the U.S. Congress prior to establishing or extending a national monument, S. 31 would limit the flexibility of the President to respond to impending threats to resources and the ability of the President to recognize, protect and preserve areas of historic or scientific importance.  S. 31 would thus eliminate a critical tool available to protect objects of historic or scientific interest on Federal land in the State of Utah.

The Antiquities Act has been used by 17 Presidents of both parties over 150 times for over a century to establish or expand national monuments in order to preserve and protect objects of historic or scientific interest for future generations.  Congress can establish national monuments as well, but has often chosen to enhance or expand protections established through the Antiquities Act.  This authority is one of the most important tools a President has to protect and conserve these objects.  Presidential use of the Antiquities Act has contributed significantly to the strength of the National Park System and the protection of other Federal lands, such as those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   

The Antiquities Act was the first U.S. law to provide general legal protection of cultural and natural resources of historic or scientific interest on Federal lands.  After a generation-long effort by a diverse coalition of experts, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act on June 8, 1906.  The Antiquities Act set an important precedent by asserting a broad public interest in the preservation of these resources on Federal lands.  Designations under the Act apply only to lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government; they place no restrictions on private property or lands managed by State and local governments and are subject to valid existing rights.   

After signing the Antiquities Act into law, President Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act eighteen times to establish national monuments.  Those first monuments included what are now known as Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Tumacacori National Historical Park, and Olympic National Park. 

Since enactment, seventeen Presidents, both Republican and Democratic, have used the Act more than 150 times to establish or expand national monuments.  The National Park Service currently manages 55 national monuments established by presidential proclamation, including some of our most iconic national monuments such as Devils Tower, Muir Woods, and the Statue of Liberty.  The Bureau of Land Management also administers 25 national monuments designated by presidential proclamation (one of which is co-managed with the National Park Service and four of which are co-managed with the U.S. Forest Service), including Agua Fria in Arizona and Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, that preserve significant archaeological sites.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers eight presidentially proclaimed national monuments (two of which are co-managed with the National Park Service).

Without the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act, it is unlikely that many of these special places would have been protected and preserved as quickly and as fully as they were.  As Congress intended when it enacted the Antiquities Act, the statute provides the necessary flexibility to respond expeditiously to impending threats to resources, while striking an appropriate balance between legislative and executive decision making.  Maintaining the established balance—including in Utah—is critical to protecting our shared national resources for future generations.

Chairman King, that concludes my statement.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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