California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke threatening legal action if the Trump Administration for “haste or greed” tries to revoke or weaken 6 designated national monuments in California.
President Trump issued an April 26 Executive Order instructing the Department of the Interior to review 20 to 40 Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the 1906 Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996.
The President directed the review over the next 45 days to focus on designations that now cover 100,000 or more acres or any designation or expansion where Secretary Zinke determined there was a lack of adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders. Secretary Zinke is to report his findings on June 14, which will then start the 120-day regulatory clock that would lead to amending or rescinding designations.
Attorney General Becerra warned Zinke in a letter, “National monument designations protect the irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage that belongs to all Americans, ensuring that the haste or greed of one generation does not squander those gifts at the expense of future generations.” Becerra warned that any such move would be unlawful and he would “take any and all action necessary to protect the American heritage which has become part of our monument lands,” according to the Highland Community News.
During the Obama Administration, the President used the Antiquities Act 34 times to set aside a record 553 million acres of national lands and waters, according to the New York Times. As a result, the four states with the largest federal ownership”—Alaska at 95.8 percent, Nevada at 87.8 percent, Utah at 75.2 percent and Idaho at 70.4 percent.
Breitbart News reported that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Obama to use the Antiquities Act, after failing to get Congressional approvals for ‘Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains’ national parks.
Although the Act specifically directs the President to limit the designation to the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” the three desert parcels were over 1 million acres. Feinstein claimed she was protecting mountain lions, desert tortoise, and bighorn sheep, but angry desert residents complained that the real reason was to ban off-roaders, hunters, miners and oil drillers.
According to the Atlantic, former Congressman Becerra was chosen by Governor Jerry Brown to replace the previous Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was elected California’s junior senator in November to support 15 other Democrat Attorney Generals in a united front of forward leaning politics against Trump’s agenda.
The Atlantic believes that Attorney General Becerra can play the role against Trump that Texas Attorney General, now Governor, Greg Abbott, and current Attorney General Ken Paxton, played against Obama. Abbott sued the federal government 50 times on issues ranging from Obamacare to the transgender bathroom mandate. Abbott said his job for 8 years was to go work, sue the federal government, and then go back home. Abbott filed 50 lawsuits, won 7, lost 12, dropped 9, and 20 are still working their way through the courts.
Becerra at age 59 is believed to be angling to run in 2018 for Senate if the 83-year old Feinstein decides to retire or even run for governor.