Since 2022, President Joe Biden has used the Antiquities Act to create five national monuments, collectively spanning more than 1.5 million acres of federal land. While these proclamations are ostensibly aimed at preserving areas of historic or archaeological importance, they often come at the expense of established laws and local economies.

The American Forest Resource Council has rightly challenged this executive overreach by calling on the Supreme Court to review the Antiquities Act.

Council President Travis Joseph says many Americans are “concerned about implications of presidents having unfettered authority to indefinitely suspend or cancel the operation of federal law through the Antiquities Act proclamation.”

One such case challenges Biden’s 2021 expansion of the Bears Ears National Monument, led by Utah alongside individual recreationists and mining interests. The plaintiffs argue that the Antiquities Act doesn’t permit arbitrary and excessive expansions that infringe upon local interests and rights. The case is headed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after being dismissed by the U.S. District Court of Utah last August.

Americans reliant on farming, logging, mining, and energy extraction have felt the brunt of the damage inflicted by these presidential decrees. Consider, for example, Biden’s recent designation of nearly 1 million acres in Arizona to create the Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.

This land has some of our country’s richest uranium deposits. While current mining operations continue, Biden’s decision makes future uranium mining operations impossible. This not only disregards local economic interests, but also exacerbates our dependence on Russian uranium to keep our nuclear power plants running.

In addition to national security risks, Biden’s decision displaced cattle that were grazing on the land. Ranchers lost nearly 40,000 acres of grazing area.

Other ranchers should be concerned, too. Public land leases to cattle ranchers support more than 10,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in total economic activity. The president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Todd Wilkinson, says: “Washington politicians are trampling local communities, land managers, farmers and ranchers with the stroke of a pen.”

Used properly, the Antiquities Act serves a noble purpose in preserving America’s heritage. But the unchecked authority it grants to presidents enables executive overreach by circumventing congressional intent and disregarding the interests of affected communities.

Such overreach is exemplified in the conflict between the Antiquities Act and the O&C Act, which governs the management of Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, or O&C Lands. The O&C Act designates these lands for logging to provide economic stability to local communities through sustainable timber harvesting.

In January 2017, just before his term expired, President Barack Obama’s executive action to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by more than 50,000 acres directly defied the O&C Act. This decision significantly reduced land available for timber harvesting, posing a threat to the jobs of those reliant on these resources.

Half of the timber revenue generated in the Oregon and California counties is shared with the respective local government, where it funds services such as road maintenance, law enforcement, and education. Reducing available land not only violates existing law, but it also lowers residents’ incomes and reduces funds available for the provision of public services.

If the Antiquities Act stands, it would continue to allow the executive power of the president to undermine established law. Judicial review by the Supreme Court offers a chance to prevent a future president from pulling the rug out from under the farmers, miners, loggers, and their communities.

By reining in executive overreach and restoring accountability to the monument designation process, we can ensure that our nation’s treasures are preserved for future generations without sacrificing the law’s integrity.

Originally published in The Washington Times

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