On Friday, President Obama named three new national monuments: the 704,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument north of Las Vegas, the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, a 100-mile stretch of land reaching across roughly 100 miles of northern California, and Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The White House statement boasted:
Together, the new monuments protect over one million acres of public land. These monuments will also provide a boost to local economies by attracting visitors and generating more revenue and jobs for local communities, further supporting an outdoor recreation industry that already generates $646 billion in consumer spending each year. With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President.
The Basin and Range contains pioneer ranching and mining areas. The Waco Mammoth revealed the bones of 24 Columbian mammoths, and the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, comprised of 330,780 acres of mountains and grasslands, will rank second in size only to the 346,000-acre San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California.
A fourth contender, Coast Dairies, 5,843 acres near Santa Cruz County’s north coast, was passed over despite the efforts of environmental groups and local leaders.
140 national monuments have been named by various presidents, including the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Arches in Utah, and Pinnacles in San Benito County.
Michael Brune, national executive director of the Sierra Club, enthused, “By designating these new monuments, President Obama has ensured that these beautiful, historic landscapes will continue to benefit local communities for generations to come.”
But Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said bitterly, “President Obama has shown complete disdain for Congress and the people of Nevada, California and Texas.” He added:
Following the example of Jimmy Carter, the Obama Administration is using and abusing the Antiquities Act as a political weapon. The worst part is that the act doesn’t guarantee public input. In fact, the vast majority of monuments that have been created through the Antiquities Act were created with no public input whatsoever. The people in the counties deserve the right to continue their work on locally-driven land initiatives without threats like these hanging over their heads.
Bishop was echoed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who wrote:
Presidents should be barred from using the Antiquities Act within a county that has enacted a land management plan. The Congressional process guarantees public involvement and ensures that all local interests are considered. To avoid the debacle that is now Lincoln County, any county participating in a local planning process should demand such an exemption be included in the final bill, I know that I will.
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who pushed for the naming of the Berryessa monument, relented when opponents urged him to exclude Lake Berryessa the monument out of concern that recreational seacraft would be banned at the lake.