The Antiquities Act: Don’t break what works for the National Park System
Op-ed by Maureen Finnerty
Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
The Antiquities Act
Should Congress wreck the Antiquities Act, one of the most effective conservation laws ever passed? Over 1,100 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (CPANP) – all former employees of the National Park Service with nearly 30,000 years of stewardship of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources – say no. The group expressed deep concerns today about proposals in Congress to undermine the Antiquities Act, the law that helped build America’s “best idea” – our National Park system.
Writing in The Hill in Washington, D.C., CPANP Chair Maureen Finnerty stated:
“We have dedicated ourselves to this cause because we know that our parks and public lands represent the very best of America; they are the places that preserve our wondrous natural and cultural heritage and truly allow us to know and appreciate our nation’s unique and diverse story.
For example, a provision in the pending House Interior appropriations legislation would bar any president from using the Antiquities Act for all time, in large swaths of the scenic West. Also in the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), has declared the Antiquities Act ‘evil in the flesh,’ and promises to enact legislation soon to cripple this key tool we rely on to protect our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.
Through exaggerated rhetoric and short-sighted proposals, some members of Congress like Bishop are trying to convince Americans that we need ‘solutions’ for problems that don’t exist. The truth is that the Antiquities Act has been instrumental in protecting many of our Country’s most important places and is one of our very best tools for preserving our outdoor heritage for future generations. Let’s keep it that way.
Since 1906, almost every president has used the Antiquities Act to protect nationally significant areas on federal lands, places already owned by the people of this country. This Act, which was signed by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, has been used by Republican and Democratic presidents. Seven Republican presidents have established 63 national monuments; and eight Democratic presidents have established 73 national monuments.
The Antiquities Act has been of fundamental importance in the creation of the National Park system. It has provided for immediate action to preserve such iconic landscapes as Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Death Valley National Park, and millions of acres in Alaska until Congress could act. The Act has also provided for preservation of historically significant landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
As a result, we now have a National Park system enjoyed by almost 300 million visitors every year. Our national parks and monuments are the economic engine that contributes more than $27 billion annually to local economies. That’s a ratio of almost a $10 return for every $1 spent to operate the National Park System. These jobs and economic benefits created are sustainable and help local communities grow and prosper.
As we begin celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, we urge Congress to focus its attention and efforts on providing the funds so critically needed to meet the true needs of the National Park System, so that it may continue to provide inspiration and enjoyment for the next 100 years.”