Antiquities Act: Legal Implications for Executive and Congressional Action

December 7, 2017 11:00 am — 12:30 pm
Washington, DC (and via webinar)

An ELI Member Seminar

The Interior Secretary’s review of 27 national monuments proclaimed on the nation’s public lands and marine areas since 1995 has focused new attention on the Antiquities Act of 1906. Possible actions by the President and Congress may substantially affect the future shape and effect of this important law. The law gives the president authority to set aside federal lands containing objects of “historic or scientific” value as national monuments, preserving them from potentially incompatible uses like mineral extraction or logging. Presidents have used this tool to designate over 150 national monuments and establish their environmental legacies on federal lands. Congress has acted to address or modify particular monument designations over the last century. However, as reflected in a bill approved by the House Natural Resources Committee on October 10th to reform the Antiquities Act, there is a substantial possibility that future Presidents may face greater limitations when declaring national monuments. At the same time, possible executive action by the Administration to change the size or management of existing monuments raises thought-provoking legal questions.

Speakers explored the presidential authority and role of Congress in the declaration and modification of national monuments. Participants gained insight into the legal history of the law, importance of America’s national monuments, and the role of Congress in management of these lands. Judicial interpretations of the recent monument review were also discussed—what can be expected by the courts from challenges to the proposal to shrink or rescind national monuments? This seminar provided environmental law practitioners with an understanding of the legal structure surrounding national monument proclamations and consideration of relevant issues raised by the Antiquities Act. This hot topic exemplified the challenges to managing natural resources amidst multiple-use and sustained yield mandates on public lands.

Jim McElfish
, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law Institute (moderator)
Brenda Mallory, former General Counsel for the Council on Environmental Quality
Mark Squillace, Professor of Natural Resources Law, University of Colorado Law School
Jonathan Wood, Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation

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