Western Caucus Slams Resources Dems Land Grab Hearing Theatrics

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Western Caucus and local stakeholders released statements calling out House Natural Resources Democrats on their Antiquities Act and land grab hearing.

For Immediate Release

Date: March 13, 2019

Contact: Emilio Navarrete


Western Caucus Slams Resources Dems Land Grab Hearing Theatrics

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Western Caucus and local stakeholders released statements calling out House Natural Resources Democrats on their land grab hearing theatrics:

Steve Wilmeth, rancher from Luna and Dona Ana County, New Mexico
: "I am a monument rancher having been in the wrong geographic area when President Barack Obama signed into law the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument. Fully 40% of our ranch is within the administrative boundaries of the monument, but 100% of the ranch is within the administrative purview of the designation because we are now managed by the monument staff. We are not the only ranch that is managed as national monument without being fully designated as such. The discussion regarding this monument suggests 496,000 acres of federal land is involved, but when the full jurisdiction of the monument staff is considered, this monument is actually 1.25 million acres. Within both the monument footprint as well as that administrative purview footprint remain state and private lands. We have three large parcels of private land within the formal monument boundary and another 10,500 acres within the administrative purview. We also have some 15,000 acres of state trust lands so impacted as well. It is clear to us that our hopes, our lives, our investments, and our existence have been relegated to an acceptable level of collateral loss...We have one pasture that will have at least three overlapping management plans!"

Rep. Kevin Hern (OK-01): "This hearing should have been used to address a real problem: the blatant abuse of the Antiquities Act by previous administrations. Instead, it was crystal clear that my Democratic colleagues’ only goal was to criticize the President. It’s shameful that this hearing, and nearly all of the others, have been nothing more than a platform for those attacks. President Trump and his administration are working to fix the problems caused by aggressive executive overreach under President Obama, a fact that my Democratic colleagues are conveniently overlooking because of their tunnel-vision focus on criticizing President Trump."

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "It's a shame that my Democratic colleagues on the Resources Committee chose to misrepresent and defend unilateral land grabs by previous Administrations. Many of these million-acre plus Antiquity Act designations took place behind closed doors and lacked local support. President Obama alone unilaterally locked up 553.6 million acres of land and water, more than 66% of the entire acreage designated under the Antiquities Act by all presidents combined since the 1906 law became effective. Let me repeat that, one man with the stroke of his pen locked up 553.6 million acres of land and water. President Trump is doing what should have been done long ago, carefully reviewing egregious national monument designations of previous Administrations that usurped power from the people and right sizing these monuments to comply with the legal definition of the ‘smallest area compatible with the proper care of the objects to be protected.’ The federal government owns too much land and is struggling to maintain the land currently under federal control. Despite this fact, House Dems and extremist groups keep trying to grow the federal estate and lock away more land. No president should have exclusive authority to circumvent Congress and singlehandedly rip away millions of acres of land and water from the American people and indigenous communities. I urge President Trump and his administration to keep going and unwind and right size more of these land grabs."

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (UT-01): "The 1906 Antiquities Act was originally intended as an executive tool to protect historical and archeological artifacts and structures under threat. Unfortunately, this worthy goal has been manipulated for ulterior political purposes. Now, everyone sitting in the audience is a forgotten voice. Everyone at this hearing today is a forgotten voice. They are forgotten voices simply because when the Antiquities Act is used to create a monument, there is only one person who has any voice in the process. There’s no allocation for input. There are no rules. There is though, a solution to this problem. The National Monument Creation and Protection Act formalizes a process that does involve getting input from everyone, before the creation and potential readjustment. If Democrats are serious about this process, we will get this done."

Chief Defense and Interior Officer Chris Stewart (UT-02): "Land grabs occur with no input from Congress or the local communities most impacted by the designations. Utahns deserve a collaborative land management process that ensures local residents have a seat at the table. I am a firm believer that any designations on our lands should happen with local input. President Trump and former Secretary Zinke’s review of our National Monuments was both a healthy and necessary process."

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05)
: "Unfortunately with the passage of the 1906 Antiquities Act, Congress delegated much of its constitutional authority to the executive branch to establish national monuments. This power has been exploited by the executive branch – especially in recent years. President Obama and his administration utilized this unfettered executive fiat to prevent economic development on federal lands and to advance the left’s political agenda. Now, the federal government owns approximately 40 percent of Arizona’s sovereign territory. I introduced a bill to prohibit the extension or creation of national monuments in Arizona – except by express authorization of Congress. I look forward to working with President Trump and his administration, Chairman Gosar, and Ranking Member Bishop to return land management decisions back to the people."

Leland Pollock, Commission Chairperson Garfield County, Utah
: "The committee has been completely misled by the title of this hearing. Typical of the spin associated with Washington DC propaganda, you have been twirled round and around to the point that you couldn't walk a straight line if you had to. Consideration and evaluation of the Trump monument boundary adjustments occurred under intense scrutiny for months prior to the President's formal action. Those efforts included a published Presidential order, a much publicized and documented visit to the Clinton monument by the Secretary of Interior, an extensive aerial review of many of the lands, input by tribal, federal, state and local officials, publicized comments by special interest groups, newspaper articles, letters to the editor and a host of Internet chatter typical of decisions made in our current society. None of those actions were conducted for the 1996 Clinton designation. In fact, designation of the Clinton monument was a closely guarded secret known only to select selfish interest groups and kept hidden behind the doors of the highest officials in Washington D.C. Not even Utah’s Congressman from the impacted district (and from President Clinton’s political party) was given notice of the Clinton era designation until only a few minutes before the announcement actually took place."

Herb Duerr, Desert Pacific Exploration Inc.: "I haven't lost claims (yet) but have investigated good prospects and more advanced projects only to back off due to previous or pending actions that undermined the ability to explore or mine the project. These projects were located in Washington State, Oregon, Nevada and Utah. Little if any regard for natural resources is taken into consideration when a designation is made. what is worse, patented and unpatented claims are sequestered and allowed to stay valid without any ability to test or exploit the minerals. In other words the designation allows a defacto takings without compensation or due process."

Suzette Morris, Vice President, Stewards of San Juan County & Member of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe: "When the Bears Ears National Monument was originally made by President Obama, it was a very upsetting day. Our voices had not only been forgotten, they had been silenced by special interest groups funded by Hollywood actors, and by tribes who do not live anywhere near Bears Ears. The leaders of my own tribe did not consult with our White Mesa community, who live closest to the area and depend on the land for survival, before choosing to support the national monument designation. They chose to ignore our voices and supported the Obama monument in secret rather than hearing our point of view. They did not ask us to support the monument, because the majority of us do not. In a refreshing contrast, President Trump and Secretary Zinke listened to the concerns of the Native people and local residents of San Juan County. Secretary Zinke toured Bears Ears and met with the local people whose voices were ignored by the previous decision. Following this review process, President Trump reduced the monument to a much more reasonable size."

Kathleen Clarke, Director of Public Lands Coordinating Office, State of Utah: "If we really want to accomplish the protections that we all want, I’d like to strongly suggest two concrete actions for this committee. First, please reform the Antiquities Act and return to the original intent of the law, allowing a president to speedily create national monuments that are the ‘smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’...Second, whether or not you reform the Antiquities Act, let’s do our best to create protections legislatively rather than through Presidential decree."

Thomas Pyle, American Energy Alliance: "For far too long the Antiquities Act has been used and abused by presidents of both parties, not to protect actual archeological sites as originally intended, but as a unilateral, backdoor means to lock up federal land from public use and development. The Obama administration took this misuse to a whole new level, locking up over 553 millions acres of land—action taken without the consent and often over the vocal opposition of the states and local communities affected. The Trump administration's actions to amend some of the most egregious past monument designations was a necessary corrective. The Antiquities Act requires that protected lands should comprise ‘the smallest area compatible with proper care and management’ of the site being protected. Contrary to the suggestion today, the Trump administration's actions are far more compatible with the text and spirit of the Antiquities Act than the actions of the Obama administration."

James Edwards, Conservatives for Property Rights
: "The Trump administration and the previous Congress worked vigorously and admirably to roll back the Obama land grab — more than half a billion acres.  There’s nothing honorable about Washington blocking off vast lands.  The Obama acolytes need to understand that property rights, productive use of our natural resources and private ownership are intertwined— and must be if there is to be any benefit, any wealth creation, any human flourishing.  This hearing is misguided and a sad reflection of the socialist streak that’s overtaken the opposition party."

Steve Pierce, Arizona Farm and Ranch Group:
"National Monuments far exceed their original intention of the Antiquities Act to protect our national treasures. They are now a tool to add additional layers of bureaucratic control and limit economic functions on public land. I commend President Trump and former Secretary Zinke in there review of these National Monuments. The Arizona Farm and Ranch Group encourages further review of the Antiquities Act and restoring it’s true intent, not encouraging massive land grabs that threaten our rural communities."

Kane County Commissioner Andy Gant: "The vast majority of Kane County residents opposed President Clinton’s designation of an overtly large Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument back in 1996 just as that same majority of residents now support President Trump’s December 2017 scaled-down Monument. The Clinton action reached out to block underground coal mining of some of the Nation’s cleanest/high BTU coal rather than focusing on protecting specific objects as described in the text of the statute.  The majority of local citizens supported coal mining.  President Trump’s action to reduce the size of the Grand Staircase reflects local sentiment and provides targeted specific protection for the Escalante River drainage while leaving open, lands containing coal. On behalf of the people I represent, I believe the most recent use of the Antiquities Act by this President, better reflects the views of a vast majority of citizens residing in Kane County today."

David R. Shaddrick, Nevada Mineral Exploration Coalition
: "The public lands of the United States are the storehouse of the nation’s wealth and should not be removed from multiple use without proper study and attention to the actual intent of the legislation used to create the removal.  They have been the source of the majority of the nation’s industrial commodities that form the foundation of our civilization.  Access to them has been critical to the development and maintenance of the ever-improving lifestyle enjoyed by every citizen of this nation.  National monuments should not be used as de-facto wilderness areas.  They should be restricted to small areas with truly unique cultural value as envisioned by the antiquities act.  There are proper methods available to remove lands from multiple use and they should be used.  I fully support the reduction in size of all improperly designated, giant, national monuments."

Craig Wiita, President Wiita Mining and Exploration: "The Democrats are on their soapboxes shouting 'green energy' 'green new deal.' What they don't realize is green energy cannot be achieved without mining. Their perversion of the antiquities act will close public lands with vast mineral wealth making their goal impossible to achieve. Currently the U.S. is 100% reliant on importing many of these needed minerals. Many issues around the world could eliminate our ability to obtain these minerals for one, but more importantly you can't save the planet without domestic mining. Here in the U.S. we mine cleaner and safer than any country in the world."

Jerry Taylor, Garfield County Commissioner: "I am a native, long term resident of Escalante, Utah and am intimately familiar with the origin and history of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In fact, my father and I had the distinct opportunity to transport our district’s congressional representative from the Escalante Airport to a Town Hall meeting at the time of GSENM’s creation. And, for the past 20 years, I have followed the Monument’s management on a daily basis. Several things are unequivocally evident:

1. Creation of GSENM was an intentionally orchestrated surprise. Congressman Orton expressed his frustration at being kept out of the designation until the last hour when he was advised of the imminent announcement. At their next opportunity, voters soundly removed him from office largely due to fallout from GSENM’s designation.

2. For the more than 20 years from GSENM’s original designation there has been intense public outcry by local citizens against President Clinton’s actions. That outcry was initiate by burning President Clinton in effigy within days of the designation – the only such event I have ever seen in Escalante. The other bookend is Utah’s statewide dominant support by all levels of elected officials to pass resolutions urging reduction in the Monument’s size. In every case, elected officials voted into office by the majority of the people they represent (and in many cases the vast majority) strongly supported reduction of the Monument’s boundaries.

3. In my own case, I was elected by a margin of almost 4 to 1. My opponent spoke and remains against the reduction of GSENM’s boundaries. I, on the other hand, fully support modifications and would support further reductions. Additionally, my companion commissioners who also vehemently support reductions, have been elected by a significant majority. For more than 20 years, the people of Garfield County have spoken repeatedly, loudly and without equivocation against the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by strongly supporting candidates and elected officials that speak with a similar voice.

4. I have taken the responsibility to inform myself of my constituent’s views very seriously. I assure you the large majority of residents in Garfield County strongly support President Trump’s reduction of GSENM’s boundaries. Although vocal and loud, voices against the reduction are a small minority of the residents in Garfield County."

Previous Quotes and Statements on Antiquity Act Abuse

Chairman Paul Gosar on the Ironwood Forest Monument in Arizona
: "The Ironwood Forest landgrab cost our economy hundreds of millions of dollars, killed good-paying jobs, attacked ranchers and prevented multiple-use of lands within the monument. The Ironwood Forest landgrab enacted a complete ban on recreational shooting and encircled the entire Silver Bell Mine and operations as well as other claims that encompasses massive mineral deposits that contain critical minerals. If this unconstitutional taking was not political in nature it would have a significantly different boundary and would be hundreds of thousands of acres smaller."

Lincoln County Commission Chair Kevin Phillips on the Basin and Range Monument in Nevada
: "disgusting…loathsome…illegal…[and] unfair", in recounting the county’s years-long fight to prevent a monument."

Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce President Craig Morton on the Berryessa Snow Mountain Monument in California
: "It is a geographically and ecologically incoherent patchwork for federal parcels. Lake Berryessa is not even geographically connected on the map to the rest of the proposed National Monument, which stretches far into Northern California. The eastern boundary of the map is coincident with the borders of Glenn and Colusa counties. The reason is political, not ecological."

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman on the Cascade Siskiyou Monument in Oregon
: "Douglas County stands to lose the most. Because it’s a national monument---managed much like a national park---the forests on those lands would be locked up and unavailable for timber harvests….A rough estimate is that those lands could have brought $2.5 million a year into the county’s general fund. That’s more than the annual cost of the library system which is about to shut down for lack of funds."

Former Democratic Carbon County Commissioner John Jones on the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument in Utah
: "President Clinton deprived the people of Utah and the nation of its cleanest low sulfer-high BTU coal supply across the Kaiparowits Plateau…As a result, Utah taxpayers saw more than $2 billion mineral lease royalties and 60 percent of their known coal reserves disappear before their eyes. Like Bears Ears, the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument also included a significant amount of SITLA land, resulting in a huge socioeconomic loss to the state of Utah…that could [have been] $25 billion or more."

San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, a Dine and Navajo woman, on the Bears Ears National Monument
: "Bears Ears National Monument campaign is a cynical political stunt that….will deny grass roots Navajo’s access to their sacred spiritual grounds…Traditional Utah Navajo people are not magazine environmentalists, but are real stewards of the land whose interests will be destroyed by a Bears Ears National Monument."


Today, House Natural Resources Democrats held a hearing criticizing former Interior Secretary’s Zinke’s and President Trump’s review of previous national monument designations to malign their redrawing of monuments to appropriate size. They continue to perpetuate the falsehood that recent national monument designations have been locally-driven and done out of genuine concern for the protection of antiquities. The reality is that the Obama and Clinton Administrations, urged on by well-heeled activist groups, abused their executive authority to lock-down massive amounts of land – without public review and irrespective of whether legitimate antiquities were protected in the process.

With the stroke of his pen, President Obama locked up 1.35 million acres Federal, State and private land in Utah with his unilateral Bears Ears Monument designation.

With the stroke of his pen, President Clinton locked up 1.9 million acres of land in Utah with his unilateral Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument designation.

During his eight years as in office, President Obama designated or expanded 34 national monuments and locked-up 553.6 million acres of land and water (more than any other president in history).

President Obama locked-up 553.6 million acres and he himself designated 66.03% of all lands ever designated under the Antiquities Act. One man with the stroke of his pen locked up 553.6 million acres of land and water. That’s 66% of the entire acreage locked up by all presidents combined since 1906. President Trump’s acreage reduction of 2.043 million acres is .37% of the total 553.6 million acres of land and water grabs locked-up by President Obama. That’s right a .37% reduction in comparison to Obama land grabs in order to right size two monuments and get them to comply with the legal definition of the “smallest area compatible with the proper care of the objects to be protected.”

Clicked HERE to view the Republican memo for the today's hearing.

On November 9th, Western Caucus sent a letter signed by 24 Members of Congress encouraging President Trump “to think big and act big league” in his monuments review (Executive Order 13792, April 26, 2017). This letter emphasized the signers' consensus that monuments must be statutorily compliant – i.e. in keeping with the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects” clause of the Antiquities Act, and that they must be of demonstrated scientific or historic interest. As such, the parameters forming this consensus necessarily demand the shrinking or rescission of a majority of the monuments under review. To read the full letter and recommendations click HERE.

President Trump’s Executive Order (E.O.) limited the Monuments Review to monuments designated after January 1, 1996, and over 100,000 acres in size and that failed to include local input. The E.O. resulted in Secretary Zinke reviewing 27 monuments and making recommendations on 10 of them. While we don’t agree with all those recommendations, 8 of Secretary Zinke’s recommendations were to keep monuments essentially as they were designated. Unlike President Obama, Secretary Zinke got out and actually listened to the people, holding more than 60 meetings with hundreds of local stakeholders throughout the country.

On March 12, 2019, Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and U.S. Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) introduced H.R. 1664, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act, to reform this 1906 law, allow local input and prevent future abuse through the stroke of a pen by one President. 
Courtesy of the White House Declaration
  • The [Bears Ears] modification [restored] the majority of the National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land to the management status existing prior to the 2016 designation.
  • Grand Staircase was originally designated in 1996 by President Clinton largely for political purposes.
  • Presidents have modified the boundaries to remove lands from monuments 18 times in the past.
  • The Trump Administration will protect objects in the “smallest area compatible” with the proper care of the objects to be protected.
  • The Trump Administration is making sure local communities have a voice by restoring traditional “multiple use” activities on Federal lands and waters.
  • This will increase economic growth and prosperity, especially in rural communities, by allowing grazing, commercial fishing, logging, and in some cases, mineral development.
  • Monument designations should be used to protect objects and not to unnecessarily restrain public access.
  • Some monument designations prevent construction of future roads and other facilities, making the land inaccessible for use.
  • Restrictions on vegetative management and maintenance activities have led to poorly maintained roads and even closures.
  • Monument designations have greatly restricted multiple-uses like grazing, timber harvest, fishing, resource development, infrastructure upgrades, and motorized recreation.
  • The President’s proclamation follows an open and transparent review process originally initiated by President Trump’s Executive Order 13792, “Review of Designations under the Antiquities Act.”
  • President Trump’s Executive Order limited the review to monuments designated after January 1, 1996, and over 100,000 acres in size, or monuments that Secretary Zinke deemed to have been created without adequate public input.
  • The review [covered] only 27 of the more than 150 monuments that the Act has been used to designate or expand.
  • Secretary Zinke visited eight monuments in six States and personally held more than 60 meetings with hundreds of local stakeholders.
  • Bears Ears National Monument will be modified to two units named Shash Jáa, Navajo for Bears Ears, and Indian Creek, encompassing a total of 228,784 acres of land.

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