Rep. Huffman Defends the Antiquities Act
WASHINGTON—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), who represents the newest National Monument in the United States, defended the Antiquities Act in a speech on the House floor today. Earlier this month, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to add the Point-Arena Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast to the California Coastal National Monument.
Huffman noted that the “premise that there is a lack and absence of public participation is, at least in my experience, totally false,” noting that the entire community of Point Arena has unanimously supported expanding the National Monument for years. Huffman also objected to claims that President Obama has somehow overreached in his use of the Antiquities Act, reminding his colleagues that that “prior to this President, sixteen Presidents from both parties have used this authority under the Antiquities Act over the course of more than a century,” including George W. Bush, who established one of the largest National Monuments in existence.
Huffman also reminded his colleagues that National Monuments are critically important to local economies like in Mendocino County, where tourism is the largest industry and brings in more than $300 million annually. If H.R. 1459 had been law, this latest National Monument expansion would not have happened, meaning local Mendocino County businesses would miss out on a significant economic boost from the thousands of tourists planning to visit the new National Monument during the summer tourist season.
A video of Congressman Huffman’s floor speech may be found HERE. A transcript can be found below:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1459.
I thank the gentleman. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1459. This is a solution in search of a problem, this bill. It implies—the name of it implies, the reference to public participation—that there’s a complete lack of public input in the process of designating these monuments, that these designations are dropping abruptly and arbitrarily out of the White House. I will tell you as a representative of the newest National Monument in this country that is just not the case.
Before President Obama added the Point Arena Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument, literally the entire community in that area that I represent, all the interested stakeholders, were not only engaged, they had been engaged for several years. That includes everyone from the business community, local tribes, conservation groups, local governments, to schoolchildren in the area. There was no opposition to this proposal. People came out to public meetings and that included a public workshop that Secretary Sally Jewell had herself. She came out to the area. I assure you there was no shortage of public input, no shortage of public participation.
And so this premise that there is a lack and absence of public participation is, at least in my experience, totally false. But so is the political narrative behind this bill, this idea that President Obama has somehow overreached in his exercise of executive authority. In fact, President Obama has been much more judicious than many of his predecessors in deciding when to designate these Monuments. Prior to this President, sixteen Presidents from both parties have used this authority under the Antiquities Act over the course of more than a century. That ranges from President Roosevelt’s designation of the Grand Canyon, to 140,000 square miles of marine monument that were designated around Hawai’i by President George W. Bush. By comparison to his predecessors, President Obama has been very sparing in using the Antiquities Act. And, he and his cabinet have been very careful to bring the public in and to be very transparent. So the narrative about executive overreach is also false.
Limiting the Antiquities Act as this bill will do, and I want to emphasize this, will harm jobs and economic growth. In the case of my district in Mendocino County, the community understood that one of the reasons for the broad support of this monument designation is that the community understood it was good for not only the environment, but good for the economy. The travel and tourism industry is one of Mendocino’s biggest industries, bringing in over 300 million dollars annually. Everybody understood that this monument designation was going to significantly boost that part of our economy. It’s going to happen now, this summer, thanks to what President Obama did.
So why should an area like Mendocino County wait on a Monument designation, especially in a situation like this where there is no opposition to the proposal? No one is saying that Congress should not play a role in protecting our public lands. It is important to note that bills to protect this part of the Mendocino coast were introduced first more than two years ago. So the 112th Congress had full a chance at it…
Mr. Speaker, we know that Congress can be slow, that there are uncertainties in the process of moving through Congress and the question is why? Why, in the case of something like this, when there is no opposition and all these economic benefits, should my district or any other district have to wait for this critically important designation? I think we should be very careful about repealing a bill that has stood the test of time and worked well for both Democrats and Republicans for more than a century.
I request a no vote on H.R. 1459 and I thank the gentleman.”