A bill introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, would seriously weaken one of America’s most successful conservation laws and should be blocked by the Senate’s Democratic leaders, Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP), a national grassroots organization, said today.
The Landrieu bill, S.3438, would weaken the Antiquities Act by barring President Bush and his successor from establishing national monuments in all U.S.-controlled ocean waters out to 200 miles from shore, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico. The ban would be in effect until Sept. 30, 2009.
“If Senate Democrats are as green as they claim to be, they will block this despicable effort to derail ocean protection and weaken a vital environmental law,” REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins said. “It is more than a bit ironic that we have a coastal state Democrat trying to prevent President Bush from protecting the environment.”
“In trying to undermine the Antiquities Act, Senator Landrieu has shown that there is no limit to what she will do to advance the interests of the oil industry,” Jenkins added.
The Landrieu bill would set a terrible precedent by restricting use of a law that has been used by presidents of both parties for more than 100 years to protect our heritage on land and at sea, including the Grand Canyon and many other iconic places,” said REP Policy Director Jim DiPeso.
The Antiquities Act, enacted during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration in 1906, authorizes presidents to establish national monuments that give immediate protection to historic and natural treasures in areas under federal control.
President Bush, who used the Antiquities Act in 2006 to establish what was then the world’s largest marine reserve in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, is considering proposals to establish additional monuments to protect threatened marine resources, including deep corals in the Gulf of Mexico at risk from poaching, pollution, and offshore drilling.
In introducing her bill, Landrieu accused the President of “misuse” of the Antiquities Act to establish the Hawaii monument. Landrieu claimed that the law was intended only to protect “landmarks.”
Her staff has also indicated a desire by Senator Landrieu to deny President Bush a conservation legacy.
“Senator Landrieu needs to brush up on her history,” DiPeso said. “President Bush had ample precedent for establishing a large monument. His predecessors, both Republicans and Democrats, used the law to protect vast landscapes, including what are now Olympic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Grand Teton National Parks.”
“Senator Landrieu is dredging up a discredited argument that was put to rest a century ago, when Theodore Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to protect the Grand Canyon,” Jenkins said. “We encourage President Bush to follow through on proposals to establish more marine monuments. In the meantime, Senate Democrats should deny Landrieu any opportunity to move her misguided proposal.”
“The Antiquities Act has served America well for more than a century. At a time of mounting pressure on natural resources, the law is needed more than ever as a tool for presidents to give immediate protection to our country’s heritage,” DiPeso said. “America doesn’t need politicians weakening its effectiveness in pursuit of parochial or vindictive agendas.”