It’s been an exciting few weeks with support building to protect the Greater Canyonlands every day! But if we let our guard down we could lose the best tool to protect the Greater Canyonlands – the Antiquities Act. This law, passed in 1906 and championed by Teddy Roosevelt, gives the President the authority to protect threatened public land as a national monument, but it has come under attack by Congress.
The Antiquities Act has been used dozens of times by presidents of both parties. In Utah, it was the first step in protecting Arches, Zion, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, which were all first designated as monuments by presidents before becoming national parks. More recently, the visionary designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument ushered in a new era of monument protection in Utah. All of these protected areas are now beloved by Utahns and non-Utahns alike, and provide the stunning backdrop for the state’s proud outdoor identity.
Now that conservation heritage is in jeopardy. The special interests that kept the last Congress from passing any new wilderness legislation (the first time since 1966!) are trying to hamstring the President’s ability to create national monuments. In just the first month of Congress, four different bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate that would gut the Antiquities Act—leaving the American people with little hope of protecting treasured places with a Congress that is stubbornly stalling wilderness legislation.