Friday, April 21, 2017

Congress' minority caucuses unite to save treasured monuments

President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to create the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off of Hawaii.which spans 582,578 square miles

FEARING THAT Donald Trump will seek to undo the work of previous presidents in preserving national monuments, members of Congress' minority caucuses gave a heads up to their leaders in the House and Senate.

The Congressional Tri-Caucus – which is composed of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) – sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to oppose any efforts that would restrict the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act and that would eliminate or reduce the boundaries of any existing national monument.

Released on April 18, the International Day for Monuments and Sites, the letter urges the leaders to defend the Antiquities Act, a law enacted by Congress in 1906 that has preserved world-renown places like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon. 

Used by the majority of Presidents since its enactment – eight Republicans and eight Democrats – the Antiquities Act is a time-tested, bipartisan tool that has helped tell our nation’s diverse story of struggles, hopes, and opportunities.

As the Tri-Caucus Chairs write: “A nation dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal must preserve and celebrate the full diversity of its rich culture and history. Any attempt to curtail the President’s authority to protect these places or to remove protections already put in place by other Presidents is an attack on our shared history. We urge you to stand against any proposal that would diminish existing national monuments or hamper the President’s ability to protect places that honor the contributions of all Americans.”

President Obama was criticized by Republicans for his use of the Antiquities Act to preserve places that are precious, irreplaceable resources for the American people.

Opposed by loggers, real estate developers and the big-business fishing industry, Republicans called Obama's actions to preserve these monuments "land grabs."

That Congress has utterly failed to do the right thing on behalf of communities, including the Asian/American and Hawaiian/American communities, clamoring for these places to be preserved is certainly not the president’s fault, nor is Obama’s subsequent intervention a sign that the Antiquities Act has spiraled out of control.

The letter is aligned with public opinion. In fact, a recent bi-partisan poll from The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project found that 80 percent of respondents supported keeping national monument designations.