Amodei, Heller seek to limit national monuments
LAS VEGAS — With some rural Nevadans angry that President Barack Obama designated two sprawling national monuments in the state in 2016, two Republican congressional lawmakers have introduced a measure to restrict the ability of future presidents to do the same.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei said their proposal would make Nevada off-limits to new monuments that don’t have approval from Congress.
The joint announcement Jan. 4 came after Obama in December designated the nearly 470-square-mile Gold Butte National Monument on land where embattled cattleman Cliven Bundy lets his cows graze, and set aside some 1,100 square miles last July for the Basin and Range monument.
Obama also designated a vast 2,000-square-mile area in Utah near the four corners area last month as the Bears Ears National Monument.
Designation generally allows hiking, hunting, fishing and current oil and mining, but bans new activity.
Under the Antiquities Act of 1906 the President has the right to protect public land and resources by designating national monuments for management by agencies such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Congress can also designate monuments.
The declarations in Nevada had strong backing from conservation advocates and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid as protection for historic, cultural and natural resources.
But Republican leaders and opponents of federal control of land in the American West complain the moves close vast areas to new energy development.
In Utah, a Republican congressional delegation failed to block the Bears Ears designation with a bid to prevent the president from naming monuments in seven Utah counties. Their plan would have required any new monument to be approved by Congress — like the Heller-Amodei proposal.
Utah’s congressional delegation also tried several times without success to insert similar restrictions into various legislation last year.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Heller and Amodei are the only two of the state’s six Nevada federal representatives who opposed Obama’s Gold Butte designation.
Reid and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., endorsed it, and Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., and Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who were elected Nov. 8, each expressed their support. Kihuen and Rosen replaced GOP representatives who opposed Gold Butte and Basin and Range.
Heller, now the senior senator from Nevada, said Nevadans had no say in the matter before Obama locked hundreds of thousands of acres under federal control.
“No matter which political party is occupying the White House, these types of unilateral federal land grabs by the executive branch should not be allowed,” he said.
Amodei said the joint proposal for Congress to approve national monuments calls for “a public and transparent process which includes input from interest groups, local communities and elected representatives.”
Under the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act by Amodei and Heller, Nevada would join Wyoming as states where such a designation would require support from Congress, where it is generally more difficult to get a monument designation.
David von Seggern, Reno-based chairman of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Gazette-Journal the group would oppose eliminating the opportunity for presidents to designate monuments in Nevada.
“We think this is wonderful part of preserving the natural heritage of America and it ought to continue,” von Seggern said.