WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House voted Wednesday to scale back the president's authority to establish national monuments, seeking changes to a century-old law that critics say has put wide swaths of the West off-limits to activities such as logging, grazing and mining.
The measure, which passed on a largely party-line 222-201 vote, is unlikely to come to a vote in the Democratic-led Senate. Still,
The vote came on the heels of President
The legislation would amend the 1906 Antiquities Act by limiting a president to designating one monument per state during a four-year term, unless Congress agrees to more designations.
It would require an environmental review, including public comment, of any proposed monument larger than 5,000 acres. The president could take emergency action to protect less than 5,000 acres. Under the legislation, the designation would expire after three years unless it gets congressional approval or an environmental review.
Obama bypassed Congress to add about 1,665 acres of Mendocino County coastline to the California Coastal National Monument in the first onshore addition to the monument, established in 2000 by President Clinton to protect 20,000 small islands, reefs, rocks and pinnacles off California's coast.
It was the 10th time Obama had used his executive power to establish or expand a national monument and came after he vowed in this year's
Presidents dating back to
Critics say the act has been abused by presidents of both parties. A
Bishop and a number of his Utah colleagues remain upset over Clinton's creation of the more than 1.7-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in their state in 1996, which put a vast coal reserve off-limits to mining.
Environmental groups warned the legislation would hamper a president's ability to move swiftly to protect natural wonders and historic sites when Congress has been slow to act.
Democrats ridiculed Republicans for advocating greater environmental review of proposed monuments while seeking to ease environmental rules for new mining and oil drilling.
"If the majority is so eager to apply [the National Environmental Policy Act] to the Antiquities Act," asked Rep.