Trump’s Monument Rollback is Unconstitutional

With his recent announcement in Utah that he intends to dramatically slash Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, President Trump has crossed the threshold from ill-advised rhetoric to illegality. While this is the clear consensus of legal minds from across the political spectrum, conservative lawyers and experts well steeped in the U.S. Constitution are sounding some of the loudest alarms. A new legal paper from Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and W Bruce DelValle—both partners at the firm Fein & DelValle PLLC—makes the case that Trump’s actions are not simply illegal, they are unconstitutional. Fein and DelValle point out that in crafting the Antiquities Act, which grants presidents the authority to establish national monuments, Congress never “intended to crown the President with discretion to revoke or materially diminish or alter the management of an existing national monument.” They go on to explain that Congress was careful to make sure that nothing in the language of the Antiquities Act delegates “legislative power to the President to revoke or to materially disturb prior presidential national monument declarations.” In fact, the ability of Congress to delegate legislative authority to the president is limited under the constitution, which is why that authority must be explicit and provide “intelligible standards to restrain executive discretion.” The implications of President Trump attempting to overstep the limits of his power by rolling back national monuments extend well beyond the harm caused to the monuments themselves—and our natural and cultural heritage that they protect. This move threatens to erode the separation of powers on which our democracy is founded. It represents...

CRS Ad Highlights Need for Strong Environmental Leadership

“I believe in a sound, strong environmental policy that protects the health of our people and a wise stewardship of our nation’s natural resources.” – President Ronald Reagan Those words were spoken at a time when our elected leaders, regardless of party or faction, truly believed American natural resources were worth fighting for.  Clean water and clean air were priorities along with good health and safe communities. Today our Nation is suffering from a lack of responsible environmental leadership, especially on the political right. We need more conservatives willing to show leadership and take a stand to preserve America’s natural heritage and security. U.S. Representatives Ryan Costello and Brian Fitzpatrick showed that leadership when they voted against riders to the federal budget that would have blocked new U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut natural gas waste and methane pollution. That is why Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship is thanking Reps. Costello and Fitzpatrick for their leadership with a print and digital ad campaign. Now it is time for other elected officials, at the state and federal level, to join them in support of commonsense policies that protect American resources and our environment. In fact, the attack on federal methane rules is not unlike the fight happening now in the Pennsylvania legislature where legislators are trying to pass budget riders that could block air quality permits that reduce methane emissions and other pollution. Unfortunately, natural gas waste and methane pollution is a big problem in that state. In fact, Pennsylvania oil and gas operators emit more than 110,000 tons of methane every single year...

Zinke Recommends Slashing National Monuments

CRS is deeply disappointed that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that the Trump Administration dramatically shrink protections for some of our nation’s cherished national monuments. Secretary Zinke confirmed that he recommended rollbacks in a report to President Trump, but the administration has thus far kept the details shrouded in secrecy. “This outcome seems to have been baked in from the start,” said CRS President David Jenkins. “How else can one explain a decision that defies consensus legal opinion and ignores the clear wishes of more than 99 percent of Americans who submitted comments?” According to press reports, Zinke has recommended slashing at least four national monuments. Two of these are in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.  Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is reported to also be on that list. Such rollbacks of national monuments are unprecedented, and according to a broad consensus of legal experts, illegal. This includes legal opinions from conservative consultants that advised the Trump transition team. One such opinion points out: “Congress intended the Antiquities Act to be used as a ‘one-way’ authority to create and expand monuments, not abolish or diminish them in size.” It went on to note that Congress reaffirmed this by passing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), which stipulates that only Congress has authority to modify and revoke national monuments created under the Antiquities Act. The administration has allowed the opinions of a few disgruntled special interests and their pals in Congress to trump the opinions of most Americans—and the best interests of communities that benefit from our national monuments. When the details come out, it...

Comments Yield Overwhelming Support for Monuments

When the official comment period ended on July 10 for the Trump Administration’s review of 27 national monuments–the product of an executive order issued by the president that threatens to roll back many of them–more than 2.7 million people of all political stripes made their voices heard by submitting comments expressing support for America’s national monuments. That represents over 98 percent of all comments received. CRS President David Jenkins had this to say: “National monuments are a Republican idea stretching back to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. That ethic of safeguarding America’s natural heritage is patriotic, conservative, and more popular than ever. If Secretary Zinke has been honest about his desire to build trust and listen to the public, then he should no doubt heed the overwhelming support expressed for those monuments under review by the more than two million Americans who submitted comments.” Kudos to all of the CRS members who took the time to make their voice heard. Share...

Zinke Disappoints on Bears Ears

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has submitted a report to President Trump recommending a significant reduction in the protected public acreage of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship (CRS) issued the following statement from President David Jenkins: “As an organization that applauded the selection of Zinke as Interior Secretary, we are deeply disappointed that in his first major decision he chose to roll back protection for Bears Ears National Monument. In doing so, Secretary Zinke is abandoning the Theodore Roosevelt conservation ethic he professes, choosing instead to side with radical anti-public land zealots who seek to exploit rather than conserve.” In writing this report, Secretary Zinke completely ignored public opinion. More than 96 percent of the public comments received so far favor keeping all of our national monuments intact and fully protected, and 88 percent of the comments from Utah support keeping the Bears Ears monument as is. Apparently the only voices that matter are the radical public land opponents in the Utah delegation and a few like-minded local officials. In his statement, Jenkins also pointed out: “Bears Ears, with its incredible natural and cultural wealth, is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act was enacted to protect. That is why the overwhelming number of Americans commenting on the Trump ordered review asked Zinke to keep the monument fully protected—a fact that Secretary Zinke chose to ignore in his report.” “National Monument protection is a Republican idea, and one that has long been embraced by genuine and thoughtful conservatives because it places America’s long-term national interests above short-sighted parochial ones.” “President Reagan, as he so often did,...

Presidential Order Threatens Our National Monuments

President Trump has just signed an unprecedented executive order instructing the Department of Interior to review the national monument designations of past presidents stretching back 21 years. The intent, according to Vice President Pence, is to “begin to undo” these designations. Never before in the 111-year history of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act, the law that authorizes the creation of national monuments, have we seen such a radical attack on this visionary protection of America’s natural and cultural heritage. In response, CRS president David Jenkins said, “At the heart of the word conservation is the word conserve which is also the root word of conservative. The Antiquities Act is a conservative idea that was brought forth by a Republican Congressman, passed a Republican Congress and was signed into law by a Republican, President Theodore Roosevelt. President Trump and Secretary Zinke should continue this tradition and conserve the Antiquities Act and all of our nation’s monument designations as they are an important part of our nation’s history and culture.” Please use our CRS Action Center link below to urge Secretary Zinke to keep all of America’s national monuments intact. A Threat to America’s Heritage Share...