Much like a losing football team looking to toss a Hail Mary pass in the final seconds, outgoing administrations turn to midnight regulations and executive actions in the brief time they have left in power.
Unfortunately for Arizona, a gimmick play often used by outgoing presidents is a dusty old law having dire implications for Western states: the Antiquities Act of 1906.
After more than a century of bipartisan abuse, a statute that was originally designed to protect cultural artifacts and archaeological sites has been transformed into a tool for presidents to unilaterally lock up millions of acres across the West.
The end result: monumental land grabs with little more than the stroke of a president’s pen.
If past is any prologue, then Arizonans are right to be wary in the remaining weeks of this administration. For most of us from rural communities, the last ditch efforts by President Clinton to saddle our state with millions of acres of unwanted national monuments are still a fresh reminder of how we can get burned even in the final days of an administration.
And this isn’t hyperbole. With national monuments being declared just across the state lines in Utah and Nevada, we might as well consider these announcements as a shot across the bow. Despite a near miss, the Obama Administration is eyeing the high plateaus north of the Grand Canyon for its next signature monument.
To be clear, there is little dispute amongst Arizonans that the Grand Canyon is the crown jewel of our state. The national park draws more than five million annual visitors and lands surrounding the Grand Canyon are used for outdoor recreation, cattle grazing, and vital wildfire mitigation efforts.
These would all be imperiled if the current proposal to lock up 1.7 million acres of the plateaus of northern Arizona come to fruition.
While I have strong philosophical differences with the president on land management, what this ultimately boils down to is respect for local input. I’ve long advocated for extensive consultation with the communities most affected by land management decisions.
That’s why I’ve authored several pieces of legislation to prevent presidents from designating future monuments in Arizona without prior consent from local stakeholders.
We are in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and – with respect to national monuments – we need to blow the whistle on any foul play.