American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Historic Preservation, and Recreation hearing on bills relating to the Antiquities Act

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Historic Preservation, and Recreation held a hearing on several bills relating to the Antiquities Act and certain United Nation's designations on February 12, 1998 in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. All of the bills under discussion were inspired by two actions: The first was President Clinton's September 18, 1996 use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare of 1.7 million acres in south central Utah as the Grand Sta ircase-Escalante Monument, and the second was the classification of lands within the United States as Biosphere Reserves by the United Nations Man and the Biosphere Program. Five bills addressed at this hearing were:

More information on these bills is available on AGI's website.

Members present:
Subcommittee Chairman Craig Thomas (R-WY)
Subcommittee Ranking member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Larry Craig (R-ID)
Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Committee Ranking member Dale Bumpers (D-AR)

Opening comments by Committee members followed party lines. Republican members were in favor of the proposed legislation, whereas the Democratic members were opposed to restricting Presidential or United Nation's designations.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Representative James Hansen (R-UT)
John Leshy, Solicitor Department of the Interior
Rafe Pomerance, Deputy Assistant Secretary Department of State
William Perry Pendley, Mountain States Legal Foundation
Edward Norton, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Theodore Roosevelt IV, National Parks and Conservation Association
John Shepherd, Holland and Hart Attorneys

Senator Hatch testified in support of the legislation to restrict Presidential action under the 1906 Antiquities Act to correct what he characterized as an abuse of federal power in the case of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument designation. The two stated abuses consisted of the excessive scope of the designation, and the failure of the Administration to accord Utah any sort of due process. The Senator favored an acreage limitation to any future Presidential national monument proclamation.

Representative Hansen, Chair of the House National Parks, Forests and Lands Subcommittee and sponsor of H.R. 1127 urged restriction of the president's ability to designate monuments of over 50,000 acres without specific congressional approval. For larger acreages there would be a two year waiting period for the Congress and State legislatures and governors to evaluate such proposals.

Senator Bennett, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee objected to the Administration's budget request to fund operation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. He suggested the action should be reversed so that a budget would be proposed to th e Congress prior to the creation of any national monument, rather than designation first with a later budget request.

John Leshy stated the Interior position in opposition to all of the proposed bills. Secretary Babbitt would recommend a Presidential veto should any of the bills be passed by Congress. The bills were characterized as unwise, unwarranted, and unnecessary w ith the potential for obstructing the National Park system. Further the Congress through legislation or appropriations had the power to correct any mistaken monument designations.

Rafe Pomerance opposed any interference with the Man in the Biosphere program. He quoted Richard Nixon's statement to the World Heritage Convention that the program was necessary to protect the world's treasures. Further that nomination of a site by the U nited Nations did not adversely affect national, state, or private property rights.

Perry Pendley suggested that the Antiquities Act had been superseded by the Federal Land Policy Management Act(FLPMA) which renders the Presidential action illegal. He stated that the Mountain States Legal Foundation has filed suit to invalidate the Presi dent's designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument.

Theodore Roosevelt IV presented the National Parks and Conservation Association's position which was to preserve the Antiquities Act and the Presidential ability to create national monuments. Should there be a need reverse a Presidential proclamation, it could be accomplished on a case-by-case basis by the Congress.

John Shepherd opposed all of the proposed bills which he believed undermined the spirit and intent of the original Act. He mentioned many of the existing national parks and monuments created under the Act, and the overwhelming support by the public for su ch national treasures.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs
Last updated March 3, 1998

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