WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) joined a group of 18 Democratic senators in introducing legislation to enhance protections for national monuments against the Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on public lands. The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act of 2018 reinforces Congress’ intent in the Antiquities Act of 1906: only Congress has the authority to modify a national monument designation.
S. 2354, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018, protects and enhances national monuments in three main provisions:
- It officially declares Congress’ support for the 51 national monuments established by presidents in both parties between January 1996 and April 2017 under their authority established by the Antiquities Act of 1906.
- It reinforces that existing law clearly states that presidential proclamations designating national monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished, except by an act of Congress.
- It further enhances protections for the presidentially designated national monuments by 1) requiring that they be surveyed, mapped and that management plans be completed in two years—in the same manner as congressionally designated national monuments—and 2) that they receive additional resources to ensure that they will continue to meet their full potential of providing unmatched economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to their states and to the nation.
The ANTIQUITIES Act comes in response to President Trump’s announcement that he will eliminate 2 million acres of protections for Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — the largest rollback of federally protected lands in American history. Trump took this action despite the fact that Americans across the country overwhelmingly voiced support for keeping the monuments intact. During the administration’s public comment process, over 99 percent of the 2.8 million comments received were in favor of maintaining existing protections for our national monuments.
National monuments and America’s protected public lands help fuel an $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, which sustains 7.6 million jobs and creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue.
“Since its enactment, 16 presidents from both parties have utilized the authority of the Act to preserve and protect national monuments and neighboring lands, including the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore City and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Until now, no president has ordered such a broad ‘review’ of existing monuments. President Trump’s actions threaten our very national heritage,” said Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The unprecedented scale of the attacks comes as the Trump Administration pushes to expand extractive industries on public lands. Our public lands belong to us all. We are taking action to ensure they exist for generations.”
“Maryland has a rich heritage and is home to several national monuments like Fort McHenry and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad. These sites provide important cultural, historical, and environmental lessons to people across our state,” said Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Never before have our national treasures been under such a direct threat – this Administration’s actions go against decades of precedent and respect surrounding the Antiquities Act. I’m proud to join Senator Udall in ensuring our national treasures remain protected and public, and I urge the Senate to take up this bill without delay.”
In addition to Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, the ANTIQUITIES Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
In addition, the five Bears Ears Coalition Tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni) support the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018.