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.”