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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Chairman's Opening Statement - Subcommittee on Federal Lands - National Monument Legislation

January 9, 2018
Speeches

Congressman McClintock is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.  The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on January 9, 2018 on
H.R. 4532 – “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act” (Curtis).  Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement at the hearing:

Opening Statement of Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04)
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands

Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4532 – “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act”

January 9, 2018 

Today the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to consider H.R. 4532, the Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act by Congressman John Curtis and co-sponsored by the entire Utah congressional delegation. 

The overarching objectives of this subcommittee bear repeating: to restore public access to the public lands; to restore good management to the public lands, and to restore the Federal government as a good neighbor to those communities most impacted by the public lands.

The Constitution gives sole jurisdiction over the public lands to the Congress.  The Antiquities Act of 1906 delegated limited authority to the President to designate national monuments on federal lands containing “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.”  The law also very specifically limited monuments to “be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”  The aim was to protect newly-discovered archeological sites from looting.

When under consideration, members expressed concern that the act might be abused.  One asked the bill’s sponsor, Congressman John Lacy, whether the act could ever be used to lock up large areas of land. He responded, “Certainly not. The object is entirely different.”

President Theodore Roosevelt first used the Antiquities Act to declare 1,200 acres around the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as a national monument. 

Yet, in the waning days of the Obama Administration, without any public hearings or consultation with Congress – and in direct contravention to the wishes of the Utah Congressional Delegation, the Utah State Government, and the local governments and tribal governments in the affected jurisdictions – President Obama declared more than 1.3 million acres as the Bears Ears National Monument.  This is a land area larger than the State of Delaware, and one thousand times larger than President Roosevelts’ first use of the law. 

This designation carries severe restrictions on land use that limit public access and use of these public lands, that thwart good management of these lands, and that ignore the wishes of the local communities affected by these public lands.

It turns out this action was initiated by environmental groups in San Francisco, financed by millions of dollars from left-leaning foundations whose consistent purpose has been to lock the American people out of their public lands.  Its constituency appears to be almost exclusively drawn from out-of-region and out-of-state interests.

Last month, President Trump modified Obama’s executive order to comport with the limitations set forth in the Antiquities Act.

Today, Congressman Curtis, backed with the unanimous support of the Utah Congressional delegation, brings us HR 4532, which re-asserts Congress’ sole constitutional authority over this issue.  

It establishes two national monuments in San Juan County, Utah: the Shash Jáa National Monument (the first tribally co-managed national monument in the nation), and the Indian Creek National Monument. The bill also establishes a first-of-its-kind Archaeological Resources Protection Unit, statutorily dedicating additional law enforcement personnel and federal dollars for the exclusive protection of antiquities within the monument’s boundaries.

When the Norman and Plantagenet Kings of England locked up millions of acres of forest as the private preserve of the crown, public outrage became so great that in 1215 no fewer than five clauses of Magna Carta were devoted to redress this abuse.

The American Founders learned these lessons, and created our Constitution in which no one person would have the authority to lock up millions of acres of land with the stroke of a pen.  The American public lands are the opposite of the King’s Forests – intended to preserve these lands for the people’s “use, resort and recreation…for all time” as first put forth in the Yosemite charter of 1864.

By giving Congress – and not the President – authority over public land, our Constitution guarantees that all voices will be heard when a decision affecting millions of acres of land is made. 

The American people expect their government to listen to those most affected by local land use decisions, and not just out-of-state special interest groups.  And they have every right to demand that Congress reassert its role over management of the lands on their behalf.

This bill seeks to right a wrong and to go about monument designation the constitutional way: through open hearings, debate and congressional action.