Political Editors / April 28, 2017

Trump Counters Federal Land Grab by Invoking Federalism

Trump is simply correcting the abuse that took place under Obama’s watch.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced that he was “signing an executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.” The egregious abuse of power he’s referring to revolves around the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which presidents are authorized — with virtually unbridled leeway and zero oversight — to designate huge chunks of land as national monuments. Not only does this strip power from the states, but it’s also a recipe for abuse because there is nothing to prevent land grabs whose purposes are purely political. Barack Obama was especially guilty of this.

Therefore, Trump has commissioned his “Secretary of the Interior … [to] conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

As The Daily Signal’s Nicolas Loris notes, what started out as a “law … to prevent the looting of archaeological and Native American structures and objects” has instead “evolved into a federal power tool for making land grabs that cater to special interests.” In fact, The Hill adds, “Under the Antiquities Act, presidents have nearly unlimited power to create national monuments on land the federal government already owns.” So no wonder, The New York Times reported in December, that “Mr. Obama … designated about 553 million acres as national monuments, more than any of his predecessors.”

Much of the land Obama designated was done so with highly questionable motives. Protecting land is not a bad thing. But that doesn’t make it the federal government’s responsibility to override a state issue. As the executive order states, “Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with State, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may … create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of Federal lands, burden State, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.” Trump is simply correcting the abuse that took place under Obama’s watch.

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