Are Monument Designations Permanent?

January 02, 2017

President Barack Obama used his executive authority under the Antiquities Act Dec. 28 to declare two national monuments in the Southwest — Bears Ears in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada. Tribal leaders and environmentalists are thrilled to protect the land from mining and artifact looting. But not everyone is happy about the designations.

Many believe those lands should be managed by states or local leaders. For years Republican lawmakers have tried to gut the Antiquities Act, but never had enough support behind the effort.

John Leshy is professor emeritus of law at the University of California-Hastings. Leshy said there’s a whole new political landscape to consider now with Republican control of Congress and the White House.

“Bottom line is Congress can do whatever it wants to Congress can rescind the monument proclamation,” Leshy said. “Congress can sell off all the lands if it wants to by simple statute. There’s nothing in the constitution that protects those lands.”

Leshy said President-elect Donald Trump could also shrink the boundaries of the monuments, which together total more than 1.5 million acres.