As Americans today give thanks for their many blessings – including personal property and land – President Obama is considering what critics call another land grab.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated during a recent meeting in San Francisco that she will recommend that Obama go around Congressional gridlock surrounding several public lands monument bills if the logjam does not subside soon.
“The president will not hesitate,” she said. “I can tell you that there are numerous places that are ripe for setting aside, with a tremendous groundswell of public support.”
The last time Congress approved adding land to either a national park or wilderness system was in 2010. Secretary Jewell blames Washington, DC, rhetoric for the halt. According to The Los Angeles Times, Jewell said the “appetite for preserving American historic and cultural sites” remains high.
The Obama administration official also discussed the federal government acquiring more land for the California Coastal National Monument. The project is one of the land bills currently pending in Congress. One of the bills would increase the boundaries of Yosemite National Park and the other would initiate a placement of a monument and protected lands in the San Gabriel Mountains.
National Parks Conservation Association representative Kristen Brengel supports the proposal and said:
It’s been nearly impossible to figure out how to get more funding for conservation work, whether it’s just getting money to run agencies or getting full funding for the Land and Water Conservation fund. There is almost no hope for the wilderness or monuments bills – they are being held up.
Although some may like the idea of increased space for monuments and national parks, those who actually live on or work the land might tend to disagree. When the Blue Ridge Parkway was created in the southern Appalachian Mountains, families who had lived on the land for centuries were forced to relocate via eminent domain orders. The project began during the Great Depression as an economic stimulus project.
The Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks were created in much the same manner, and ultimately connected to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) has tried to calm nervous homeowners within the proposed Yosemite expansion by saying their land “will not be affected in any way, and would only become part of Yosemite National Park upon voluntary sale, donation or exchange by the landowners.”
The Antiquities Act gave presidents the power to name new monuments, an authority which had resided with Congress. Beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt, presidents have invoked the Antiquities Act in order to set aside “natural wonders.” In 1908 the Grand Canyon was designated a natural wonder by presidential decree, and was ultimately turned into a national park, even though local officials and residents objected.
In a controversial move during his presidency, Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, the move putting one to the largest coal reserves in America off limits to mining, the Times reported. Then-Governor Michael O. Leavitt protested that federal officials refused to consult with local officials and community members on the project. Land protections were enhanced on 1.8 million acres. Bill Clinton reportedly used the Antiquities Act more than any other Oval Office holder in history. President Obama has used the same law to designate nine historic sites to date.
How do you feel about eminent domain and the Antiquities Act being used to increase federal government land?