Interior Department announces first-ever formal public comment period to review Antiquities Act monuments
At the same time that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a tour of the Bears Ears National Monument, the Department of the Interior announced the first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
The Department also released a list of monuments under review under the President’s Executive Order 13792, issued April 26, 2017. The list includes 27 monuments that are under review, including the Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments that are in or adjacent to San Juan County.
Bears Ears National Monument, totaling 1.35 million acres, was created in December, 2016 by President Barack Obama.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, adjacent to San Juan County in southwest Colorado, totals 200,000 acres and was created by President Bill Clinton in 2000.
Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, adjacent to San Juan County in Kane and Garfield counties of Utah, totals 1.7 million acres and was created by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act. However, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump said they both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management.
As a result, there were no public hearings during Secretary Zinke’s visit to San Juan County regarding the monuments. The Secretary had a number of private meetings with several key groups.
Comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search”, or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.
The Department will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period. Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice. Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date.
“The Department of the Interior is the steward of America’s greatest treasures and the manager of one-fifth of our land” said Secretary Zinke.
“Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent.”
“Initiating a formal public comment process finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations.
“There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”
The Executive Order 13792 of April 26, 2017 directs the Secretary of the Interior to review certain National Monuments designated or expanded under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
Specifically, the Executive Order directs the Secretary to conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders, to determine whether each designation or expansion conforms to the policy.
Among other provisions, the designations should reflect the Act’s “requirements and original objectives” and “appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.”
In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider:
(i) the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;
(ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;
(iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;
(iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
(v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;
(vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and
(vii) such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.