President Donald Trump signed an executive order that questions the validity of some national monuments in the West. The order applies to any national monument created after 1995 that totals at least 100,000 acres.
Friday, the Interior Department released the list of monuments up for review and announced the first-ever public comment period on the topic. In a new twist, Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument made the list.
But according to John Freemuth with the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State, Craters probably shouldn’t be on this list. Freemuth points out that President Coolidge designated Craters in 1924. That's decades before Trump's cut-off date. In the 1990s, President Clinton added acreage to Craters – however:
“In 2002 Congress re-designated part of this as a national preserve to the Park Service," says Freemuth. "An action of Congress here overrides anything that the president did.”
Freemuth says the review ordered by President Trump should concern people who want to see Craters stay the same. But he says it’s not clear how hard Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke will push to reduce the size of any monument.
“He has been ordered to do this by the President. So I don’t know – I have no information about what Secretary Zinke thinks – but it’s very possible that he could be reviewing these and decide that many of them are fine.”
Presidents have the authority to designate monuments under the Antiquities Act, often setting aside large areas for public land conservation. But after several new monuments were added in the West under President Obama critics have begun floating ideas about how to reign in this executive power. Utah's Bears Ears National Monument has been a particular flash point for critics after Obama designated it during the final month of his presidency.
Just last week, Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador proposed a bill to require Congressional and state approval for new monuments.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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