House Panel Sets Limits on National Monument Declarations

Before leaving for recess, a House Resources subcommittee voted out legislation to the full committee that would rein in the president's ability to prohibit oil and natural gas production and mining activities on public lands by declaring them as national monuments.

By a voice vote, the national parks, recreation and public lands subcommittee approved the National Monument Fairness Act of 2001, which would require a president seeking to create a new national monument of 50,000 acres or greater, or to expand an existing monument by 50,000 acres or greater, to first give the governor of the state or states where the acreage is located 30 days' notice and an opportunity to comment in writing.

The bill, which amends the existing Antiquities Act, also calls for Congress to approve within two years any presidential designation of a national monument of 50,000 acres or more. If Congress fails to do so, the lands would revert to what they were being used for prior to being designated as a national monument, according to an amendment passed.

The measure further would set some limits on the president's ability to declare national monuments of less than 50,000 acres, requiring him to solicit public participation and comments, consult with the governor of the state where the acreage is located, as well as the congressional delegation of the state within 60 days prior to any national monument being declared. Monuments of this size, however, would not require congressional approval.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who sits on the subcommittee and full committee, offered the bill after former President Bill Clinton designated millions of acres of public lands as national monuments in the waning days of his administration last January, placing them off-limits to producing and mining activities.

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