Members of Congress circulate Dear Colleague letters all the time to rally support for and against bills, but they don’t always get red-pen graded copies in return.
“He happily awarded A’s for outstanding work, but for students who clearly did not do their homework or the necessary research, he often assigned an incomplete with a required re-write,” said Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-Utah) office of the former 28-year public school teacher. “After reading the following Dear Colleague letter written by Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Congressman Bishop assessed that they clearly hadn’t done their homework or the necessary research to get a passing grade on their analysis of the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act.”
Bishop’s bill, up for debate on the House floor today, “would require public participation before a presidentially-declared National Monument is made official.”
“Under a century-old law, the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents can unilaterally designate National Monuments without any input or involvement of the American public, community leaders, or elected officials. This authority, enacted prior to the establishment of today’s land management laws, was intended to be used in emergencies to protect historic artifacts and sites of scientific value from imminent threat and ‘confined to the smallest area’ necessary,” the House Natural Resources Committee said of the bill. “Since its establishment 108 years ago, the Antiquities Act has at times been misused for political purposes by presidents on both sides of the political spectrum. In most circumstances of abuse, large-scale designation are intended to limit specific uses, activities, and access to vast areas of America’s public lands. This has hindered viable uses of land that benefit local communities and support industries and livelihoods, including education, energy production, farming, ranching, mining, and recreation.”
President Obama has invoked the act to establish the César E. Chávez National Monument in 2012 and earlier this month expanded the California Coastal National Monument to include more than 1,600 acres of Mendocino shoreline in the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit. That bill from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) had already passed the House by voice vote and was sitting in the Senate for action, leading Bishop to declare “the legislation was held up in the Senate so the president could usurp the congressional process. In other words, the House was punked by the president.”