As the Washington Post reports, President Barack Obama used his Antiquities Act power to declare five new national monuments yesterday, including the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument just south of the San Luis Valley of Colorado in northern New Mexico:
President Obama defied congressional opposition and designated five new national monuments Monday, using his executive authority to put historic sites and wild landscapes in a half-dozen states off limits to development.
The designations affect three areas managed by the National Park Service, including one honoring abolitionist Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Maryland and a collection of sites commemorating Delaware as the nation’s first state. Obama also used his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect two swaths of land under the Bureau of Land Management’s control: Washington’s San Juan Islands and New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte…
It remains unclear whether Obama will designate other national monuments in the future; last Congress marked the first one since 1966 which failed to designate a single new national park or wilderness areas. [Pols emphasis]
In Colorado last year, President Obama established with the same authority the new Chimney Rock National Monument near Pagosa Springs. Chimney Rock's status upgrade enjoyed bipartisan support, including from area Rep. Scott Tipton. At the same time, however, Tipton was a co-sponsor of legislation to restrict the President's authority to declare national monuments–even though Tipton signed a letter asking President Obama for just that if legislation stalled out. Tipton has never been made to answer for this contradiction, but he has said that his preferred path for Chimney Rock would have been "through Congress."
Which just wrapped up the first session since 1966 "with not a single new national park or wilderness area."
Notwithstanding Chimney Rock's designation which did eventually pass the House before stalling out in a partisan impasse between members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, there's a reason why the previous Congress failed to establish any new parks or wildernesses: Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, chair of the same House Natural Resources Committee Tipton serves on. Hastings really dislikes the use of Antiquities Act power to declare monuments. Or maybe he just dislikes national monuments? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer explains:
He wouldn’t hold a hearing on legislation to protect the islands, but House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has denounced President Obama for creating a San Juan Islands National Monument and monuments in four other states.
In a statement Monday, however, Hastings shows that while he’s a Washington congressman, Doc knows very little about the 955-acre monument in his home state…
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., along with Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., sponsored legislation to establish a National Conservation Area in the San Juans. They urged Obama to make a national monument only when the legislation couldn’t get a hearing in the committee of which Hastings is chairman. [Pols emphasis]
So the same congressman who blasts Obama for using Antiquities Act power to bypass Congress…is also the one almost solely responsible for making Congress the roadblock? That makes about as much sense as Tipton asking for Chimney Rock National Monument's designation while trying to take away the power to designate it.
If you're looking for a moral to this story, there isn't one. Except maybe why Congress is not very popular.