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National Monument Law Gets Attention From Both Sides Of The Aisle In Washington

Judy Fahys / KUER
An area of Bears Ears disputed under the Antiquities Act.

Separate bills are active in Congress to alternately strengthen or weaken the law used to create national monuments.

House Democrats have introduced a bill stating that only an act of Congress can shrink monuments, not the president under the Antiquities Act. That’s the Act President Trump recently used to scale back Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, has proposed a bill that would require congressional and state approval to create any more monuments in his home state. And Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has a bill to overhaul the Antiquities Act completely.

Adam Sowards is an environmental historian at the University of Idaho.

"I think at this particular moment in history there’s concern — especially from Republicans — but I think it’s even more broad than that, around the concentration of power in the executive’s hands," Sowards said. 

He said changes have been made to the Antiquities Act before but this flurry of legislative activity is a sign of concern about presidential executive orders from both parties.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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