President Barack Obama has designated more than one million acres of land as “national monuments,” meaning the president has restricted the use of 260 million acres of U.S. lands and waters.
Obama has designated Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Waco Mammoth in Texas and the Basin and Range in Nevada as national monuments under the Antiquities Act. Together, these national monuments make up more than one million acres.
“As many of you know, one of the great legacies of this incredible country of ours is our national parks and national monuments,” Obama said Friday while announcing the monument designations. “It is something that we pass on from generation to generation, preserving the incredible beauty of this nation, but also reminding us of the richness of its history.”
So far, the president has made 19 such designations, more than any other commander-in-chief, covering more than 260 million acres of U.S. land and water. Obama’s latest designations come after the president made national monuments of Browns Canyon in Colorado, the Honouliuli internment camp in Hawaii and Chicago’s Pullman district.
Republicans have been critical of Obama’s extensive use of monument designations, calling these actions “land grabs” that run counter to how a democratic government is supposed to work.
“President Obama has shown complete disdain for Congress and the people of Nevada, California, and Texas,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop said in a statement.
“This surreptitious land grab reveals that the Obama Administration will stop at nothing to lock up more and more land, with the stroke of a pen,” said Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. “I condemn this shameful power move which makes states and citizens fearful that the federal government can invade at any time to seize more lands like bandits in the night.”
Environmentalists, on the other hand, cheered the move. Activists claimed these lands could now be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
“By designating these new monuments, President Obama has ensured that these beautiful, historic landscapes will continue to benefit local communities for generations to come,” Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club said in a statement.
Obama has redoubled his efforts this year to keep more public lands of-limits to development, especially oil and gas drilling. Earlier this year, the president asked Congress to permanently designate the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, as a “wilderness” — meaning it could not be used for oil and gas drilling.
“The White House has made a mess out of the democratic process – which my Committee will now have to try and rectify,” Bishop said. “How this decree impacts people and their livelihoods – including public safety, water rights, economic development, recreation, and grazing – should be handled by Congress before a designation, not after the fact. Once again, the Obama Administration has put politics above people.”
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