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Trump Executive Order Sparks Fears of Antiquities Act Reversal

The Trump administration plans to review national monuments designated since 1996, including the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management)
The Trump administration plans to review national monuments designated since 1996, including the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management)
April 27, 2017

HELENA, Mont. -- President Donald Trump has signed an executive order calling for a review of 20 national monuments designated since 1996.

The administration said the review is necessary to ensure Trump's predecessors did not abuse the law allowing presidents to designate such monuments. In the past 21 years, three different presidents designated more than 50 national monuments, including the Pompeys Pillar and Upper Missouri River Breaks national monuments in Montana.

Hugo Tureck , a board member with the Friends of the Missouri Breaks National Monument, said Montanans do not support efforts to weaken protections for public lands.

"Every poll in Montana says don't touch our public lands,” Tureck said. "Every poll in Montana says the overwhelming majority of people are saying bluntly we don't want the state to manage them."

Presidents are able to designate national monuments without approval from Congress because of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Conservation groups are concerned that the review process could weaken protections or shrink the monuments' borders. Only Congress can undo a national monument designation.

Tureck said the Antiquities Act helps speed up the process of protecting a monument of significant cultural or natural value since only the president has to act. Currently there is a bill in the Senate that would change the monument designation process. Tureck said Congress is waiting to pounce on this issue.

"What I'm really worried about is the effort to undo or change the Antiquities Act,” he said, "because it only works to the degree that the president has that right."

The Department of the Interior, in charge of the review, could also look at the Stonewall and Birmingham civil rights monuments; Fort Ord and Fort Monroe military monuments; and Bears Ears in Utah, which contains preserved Native American ruins and cultural artifacts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT