House Moves Against Theodore Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act

Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is planning a vote this week on H.R. 1459, a bill sponsored by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and six other Western anti-public land zealots that chips away at the Antiquities Act signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Antiquities Act–which was introduced by a Republican, passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican President–gives the President authority to protect iconic historical, cultural, and natural sites as National Monuments. The law has served our nation well for over 100 years and been used by 16 Presidents (8 Republican and 8 Democrat). The sponsors of H.R. 1459 are promoting their bill as a way to undermine the authority of the current President. By making this about President Obama, they are banking on partisanship to deliver the needed number of Republican votes for passage. This is short-sighted in the extreme. A National Monument proclaimed by the President under the Antiquities Act can already be abolished by an act of Congress if it is unpopular. By limiting presidential authority on the front end, H.R. 1489 would equally hamper a future Republican President. The Antiquities Act was enacted at a time of mounting concern over loss of priceless natural and historic treasures in the West to uncontrolled looting and vandalism. By authorizing the President to protect nationally important resources, the Antiquities Act facilitates a swift response to threats. In its absence, these assets were often irreparably damaged before Congress could act. The Antiquities Act is a prudent and conservative law that ensures protection for those special places that are irreplaceable features...

CRS Welcomes Move to Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced (02/28/14) its initiation of a process to decide whether to use its veto authority under the Clean Water Act to block construction of the proposed Pebble copper and gold mining project in southeastern Alaska. Although only the first step in the veto process, it shows EPA’s concern about the potential impacts of such a large-scale mine on our nation’s most productive fishery. That concern stems in part from EPA’s recently released Bristol Bay Assessment, which examined the potential impacts of the Pebble Mine on the area’s salmon fishery and determined that the massive mine would have devastating impacts. EPA estimates that constructing the mine and its surrounding infrastructure would destroy 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes. EPA also projects that under routine operations, polluted water from the mine site would adversely impact fish in an additional 13 to 51 miles of streams. The agency also concludes that a major spill would have catastrophic  impacts on the fishery. Back in 2010, CRS and its sister organization (known at the time as Republicans for Environmental Protection) requested that EPA use its authority under section 404 of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine. We noted that Bristol Bay, both as an economic engine and a vital natural resource, is a national treasure deserving of our most diligent stewardship. We believe that building the largest open-pit mine in North America (two miles wide and one-third mile deep), along with giant earthen dams that would hold an estimated 2.5 billion tons of sulfide waste rock and...