It has been said that "we are entitled to our opinions, just not our own facts." Recent debate over the Public Lands Initiative and Bears Ears National Monument proposal makes this a good time to review the facts about national monument designations.
For 110 years, the Antiquities Act has empowered presidents to protect lands having historic or scientific interest. Indeed, 15 of the last 19 presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, have designated national monuments. Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef and Arches national parks all began as national monuments.
Critically, the Antiquities Act affords presidents the ability to craft monument designations that are responsive to local concerns. President Obama, for example, recognized the importance of water to westerners when, in creating the Basin and Range National Monument, he stated that the monument neither created new federal water rights nor altered existing state-issued water rights. In creating the Browns Canyon National Monument, he expressly recognized state "jurisdiction and authority with respect to fish and wildlife management." In creating the Río Grande Del Norte National Monument, he protected utility line rights-of-way within the monument. Similarly, the Basin and Range National Monument proclamation states that, "nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect authorizations for livestock grazing, or administration thereof, on federal lands within the monument. Livestock grazing within the monument shall continue to be governed by laws and regulations other than this proclamation." And of course monument proclamations apply only to federal land. As the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument proclamation and every other recent proclamation make clear, monuments are established "subject to valid existing rights." These kinds of assurances, and more, are common in monument proclamations.