GOP Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah slammed Democrats Wednesday for wanting greater transparency in the Trump administration’s review of some national monuments’ necessity, but refused to back legislation creating a transparent process for national monument creation.
The House Committee on Natural Resources passed a bill on a party line vote that would reform the Antiquities Act, that gives the president power to designate national monuments, after a committee markup session Wednesday.
The committee also passed a resolution, introduced by Democrat lawmaker and the committee’s Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, ordering Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to send Congress documents related to the national monument review President Donald Trump ordered in April.
“The Ranking Member’s measure seeks transparency from one president, from one political party,” Bishop, who chairs the committee, said in his opening remarks. “The minority … seems entirely content to leave the monument creation process hidden, behind closed doors, outside of the public eye.”
Bishop’s bill allows the president to unilaterally declare national monuments up to 640 acres, or one square mile, in size.
Anything larger requires increasingly stricter studies and reviews to measure the monument’s necessity and impact. Monuments between 10,000 and 85,000 acres requires approval from county commissioners, state legislatures, and governors, and written approval from landowners before any state or private land is included in a national monument.
The bill also codifies the president’s power to shrink national monuments designated by prior presidents.
“[Bishop’s bill] is designed to destroy the Antiquities Act,” Grijalva said Wednesday. “Republicans claim the Antiquities Act is a land grab, but the real land grab would be to allow governors and county commissioners to dictate development of federal resources according to their own interests.”
Grijalva went on to characterize the monument review, conducted by Zinke, as a sellout of the public interest.
Zinke “ignored public comments, held secret meetings with undisclosed industry lobbyists, then refused to release the final review document,” Grijalva said.
Bishop and other Republicans on the Natural Resources committee have called members on the other side of the aisle hypocrites for their partisan commitment to transparency.
“I do hope that all my colleagues understand that our problem isn’t President Obama or President Trump,” Bishop said Wednesday. “It’s the underlying law — a statue that provides unilateral authority to dictate national monument decisions in secrecy and without public input.”
“We must also realize that the only path to transparency and accountability we all seek — no matter which party controls the White House — is to amend the act itself,” Bishop added.
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