On Tuesday, Jan. 10, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and a long list of cosponsors reintroduced a bill that aims to improve local input and require state approval for designation of national monuments on federal lands and waters.

A 2016 NMFS map shows national marine monuments of the Pacific Ocean.The Improved National Monument Designation Process Act requires specific congressional authorization, approval by each state legislature within 100 miles of the proposed monument, and certification of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act before any national monument can be declared on public land or within the exclusive economic zone.


The Antiquities Act provides the president with authority to create national monuments and explicitly requires the reservation of “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” In recent years, however, the Antiquities Act has become a tool to sidestep Congress and create sweeping conservation areas despite opposition from local residents and user groups. The Obama administration has designated  554 million acres — equal to 865,625 square miles, an area five times the size of California — onshore and offshore as national monuments.

“President Obama has locked up more acres through monument designations than the previous 18 presidents combined,” Murkowski said. “His unilateral withdrawals have routinely come with complete disregard for local concerns and opposition, threatening energy, mining, fishing, ranching, recreation, and other reasonable uses of public land and waters. At this point, we have no choice but to reform the Antiquities Act to ensure that the people being impacted by these designations are heard and respected.”

“This legislation would allow for greater transparency in the monument designation process and would allow Idahoans to have greater input on monument proposals,” said Jim Risch (R-Idaho).“Further, congressional authorization would be required before any national monument can be declared on public land, which would prevent the president from designating a monument based on the administration’s agenda.”

“I am proud to cosponsor this legislation that would reform the monument designation process, a process particularly important to Arizona,” said John McCain (R-Ariz.). “The proposed Grand Canyon Watershed Monument in Arizona will threaten hunting, grazing, water resources and wildfire prevention in one of the most celebrated and enjoyed regions of my home state.”

The bill was cosponsored by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Shelley Capito (R-W. Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R- Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Murkowski is chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She sponsored the previous version of this bill, S. 437, in the 114th Congress.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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