You are here

NPS Retirees Say House Legislation Would Gut Antiquities Act, Lead To More Hunting In National Parks


Legislation currently pending in the U.S. Senate would, if allowed to become law, gut the Antiquities Act that so many presidents have used to preserve and protect valuable landscapes and historical settings, according to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

The measure is being considered as an amendment to the Farm Bill on the Senate floor and should be opposed by anyone who cares about the special places that are part of the National Park System, according to the Park Service retirees.

The bill's language would gut the Antiquities Act, which was used by past presidents to set aside places such as Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Carlsbad Caverns and Acadia national parks.

“Some of this nation’s most loved parks were first set aside and protected as national monuments and were later legislated by the Congress into national parks," said Maureen Finnerty, chair of the Coalition's Executive Council. "The modification to the Antiquities Act would require that any presidential proclamation be approved by the governor and the legislature in the state in which the potential monument would be established. Such a requirement would essentially render the Antiquities Act meaningless as such accord rarely exists.

"Moreover, the president can only employ the provisions of the Act on lands already owned by the people of the United States. It cannot be used on state or privately-owned lands," she added.

Additionally, the group says, H.R. 4089 could open up many areas of the National Park System to hunting, trapping, and recreational shooting. Most national park sites are closed to such activities in the interests of public safety, visitor enjoyment and resource protection. The House defeated an amendment to the bill that would have specifically excluded all the 397 units of the National Park System from these activities, which are already legal and appropriate on millions of acres of other public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

“NPS has long governed units of the National Park System based on the principle that hunting, trapping, collecting specimens and other uses that extract natural resources from park area ecosystems are not allowed, unless Congress has clearly authorized such activities," said former Glacier Bay National Park Superintendent Cherry Payne, a member of the Coalition's Executive Council. "This longstanding principle has been confirmed by the courts.

"H.R 4089 would eliminate this principle because it would recognize that hunting, trapping, fishing and collecting are to be affirmatively supported and facilitated on all federal lands," she added. "As a result, H.R. 4089 would stand NPS management policy on its head, creating a presumption that consumptive uses are the norm, and must be allowed unless expressly prohibited.”


This would be one giant step backward and would eliminate any real significant difference between National Park units and BLM or Forest Service lands. I can see it pit coal mines in Zion National Park. Uranium mines at Grand Canyon. How about a couple hundred oil/gas rigs (one in every picture taken) at Grand Teton. While we are at it let's cap Old Faithful for geo-thermal energy production. Amazing!

Could the author please identify the legislation that will "gut the Antiquities Act"? I see nothing in H.R. 4089 (the only legislation mentioned) that says anything about the Antiquities Act. Also note that H.R. 4089 specifically says:

"Nothing in this title requires the opening of national park or national monuments
under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service to hunting or recreational shooting."

In other words, the Parks would have the jurisdiction to allow or not allow just as they do now. No policy would be stood on its head.

Anonymous, you need to read the version that passed out of the House. Section 601 specifically states:

6 (a) DESIGNATION.—No national monument des-

7 ignated by presidential proclamation shall be valid until

8 the Governor and the legislature of each State within the

9 boundaries of the proposed national monument have ap-

10 proved of such designation.

11 (b) RESTRICTIONS.—The Secretary of the Interior

12 shall not implement any restrictions on the public use of

13 a national monument until the expiration of an appro-

14 priate review period (determined by the Secretary of the

15 Interior) providing for public input.

As for hunting et al, there are more units in the National Park System than just "national park or national monuments." There are national historical parks, national historic sites, national recreation areas, etc, etc, etc. For further details on this proposed legislation, please see this earlier story that appeared on the Traveler:


Old Ranger - Please read the bill. It is about hunting and fishing. It says nothing of coal or uranium mnes. Nothing of oil or gas drilling. Nothing about capping Old Faithful (or any other geothermal feature.

Its is Chicken-Little rhetoric such as this that makes people skeptical of even real environmental issues.

Well, anonymous, not sure I'd say essentially rewriting how the Antiquities Act can be used is "chicken-little rhetoric"....If adopted, it would basically put the states in control of federal lands when it comes to designating national monuments. Good thing Theodore Roosevelt didn't have to negotiate that. He turned to the Antiquities Act 17 times to set aside such places as Devils Tower and that canyon in Arizona, the one they call Grand...

(b) RESTRICTIONS.—The Secretary of the Interior shall not implement any restrictions on the public use of a national monument until the expiration of an appropriate review period (determined by the Secretary of the Interior) providing for public input.

If this passes, the lawyers and politicians will have a field day with this wording, and it could be argued that all existing regulations (i.e. "restrictions") that currently apply to national monuments are off the table. If so, what happens until new ones go into effect after "an appropriate review period"?

Given the lack of support for the NPS in general by some past Secretaries of the Interior (and their Under Secretaries), placing all this authority in the hands of a political appointee would be a very bad move indeed.

We need to be clear about this bill and its Senate counterpart, S 2066.

H.R. 4089/S. 2066 does not maintain the current prohibition on hunting, trapping, collecting wildlife and shooting in most national parks and monuments. H.R. 4089 subsection (h) says that “[n]othing in this title requires the opening of national park[s] or national monuments under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service to hunting or recreational shooting.” It should be noted that recreational fishing is not included in the proviso; hence, any national park or monument now closed to such an activity would be opened. S. 2066 is even more problematic because it does not even include this provision, and therefore would compel NPS to allow these consumptive use activities in parks and monuments where they are currently prohibited.

This provision of H.R. 4089 does nothing to protect parks and monuments. While the provision does not “require opening” such areas, the bill still requires NPS to “support” and “facilitate” hunting, trapping, collecting and shooting. Even without a mandate to open such an area, there would be no way to satisfy the “support” and “facilitate” duty without opening parks and monuments. In addition, most parks and monuments are closed by virtue of the principle described above that these consumptive uses are prohibited unless expressly authorized. But that principle would be invalidated by this bill. Quite simply, if H.R. 4089/S. 2066 intended to maintain the status quo in parks and monuments, it could plainly state that the bill does not apply to such areas (or, even better, to any unit of the National Park System).

H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would eviscerate the 1906 Antiquities Act. Many units of the National Park System have been created as national monuments by Presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act, a law that has worked well for this purpose since it was enacted in 1906. Every President, save three since 1906, has utilized this act to create national monuments. This bill would impose a major impediment on the designation of national monuments by requiring approval of the Governor and legislature of the affected states. Needless to say, state-level political support for national monument designation is unlikely in most cases. Even if designation could still occur, significant trade-offs could be necessary to satisfy state concerns. This is a particularly difficult provision to understand as national monuments are created out of land already owned by the people of the United States for federal purposes of protecting nationally significant “historic landmarks, historic and pre-historic structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” The Act does not apply to state or privately-owned land. This Presidential duty should not be subject to state politics.


Like other proposals that have recently emanated from House Republicans and similarly minded people, this obviously isn't going anywhere.

To its credit, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees acknowledges this right up front, in the first paragraph of its webpage. While calling the legislation "perhaps the greatest threat to the National Park System throughout its history," the sentence preceding that assertion tacitly acknowledges it's a rather vaporous threat, because "[a] similar bill . . . had previously been introduced in the Senate, but no further action has been taken." And that's the end of that. Moreover, President Obama would veto any bill that passed along the lines of this House bill.

Next issue, please . . . .

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments