Conservatives are speaking out against efforts by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Donald Trump to reduce or eliminate national monuments. Conservative columnists and legal scholars are joining the chorus of experts who have argued that the President does not have the authority to unilaterally change or repeal a national monument.
“Even conservatives are turning against this administration’s efforts to reduce or eliminate our national monuments. It’s clear that making changes to these federally protected lands requires an act of Congress and can’t just be made at the whim of a President,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “Secretary Zinke has conducted this review at the request of President Trump and powerful industry special interests without the legal means to do much more than offer suggestions to Congress. Anything beyond that would be an unconstitutional power grab.”
If a president signs a bill passed by Congress, it becomes law. A successor president may not repeal the law by a proclamation renouncing his predecessor’s signature. The Antiquities Act works in the same way. A presidential proclamation declaring a national monument may not be unilaterally revoked by a successor president. That would require new revocation legislation passed by Congress and signed by the new president…
The craving for power is ubiquitous. The fact that no president in more than a century has attempted to revoke a national monument designation is strong evidence that the power does not exist.”
No president has ever revoked a national monument of a previous president, under the Antiquities Act during the 111 years it has been in effect. In 1938, the U.S. Attorney General found that the president lacks authority under the Antiquities Act to revoke such designations issued by previous presidents. This is clearly a separation of powers issue, and decisions previously made under legislation enacted by Congress and signed the president can not simply be overturned by a later president by mere executive order.”
The problem is, under the Antiquities Act, presidents can add monuments, but they do not seem to be able to subtract them.”
Secretary Zinke is poised to submit his review of national monuments to President Trump on August 24.