H.R. 1459: Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act

H.R. 1459

Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act

Rep. Rob Bishop

March 26, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act, under a rule.  H.R. 1459 was introduced on April 10, 2013 by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.  The bill was marked up on July 24, 2013 and was ordered reported by a vote of 26-14.[1]

Bill Summary

H.R. 1459 amends the Antiquities Act to (AA) make presidential national monument declarations an open public process by applying the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).[1]  The bill categorically exempts from NEPA any declarations affecting 5,000 acres or less for a period of three years, which allows a temporary designation if there is an imminent threat to an antiquity.  These limited designations would become permanent if the President follows the NEPA review process or Congress enacts a law.  The bill limits presidential national monument declarations to one per state during a four-year presidential term without an express act of Congress.  H.R. 1459 prohibits such declarations from including private property without written consent of the owner.  The bill also requires that each declaration be accompanied by a feasibility study estimating the cost associated with managing the monument in perpetuity, including the loss of state and federal revenues.

[1] The bill accomplishes this by considering them “major federal actions” under NEPA.


The AA, which was enacted in 1906, authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that have “historical landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.”[1]  The President may reserve land “confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”[2]  Although Congress may also designate national monuments, the presidential declaration under the AA was “designed to provide an expeditious means to protect federal lands and resources.”[3]  Since the law’s enactment, sixteen of the nineteen Presidents have created 137 monuments ranging from “less than [one] acre to about [eighty-nine] million acres” in size.[4]  There is concern that Presidents have exceeded their authority by declaring monuments beyond the size necessary for proper management and care of the site intended to be preserved.[5]  According to the House Natural Resources Committee, “The [AA] was designed to prevent damage to specific sites, not to be a national land-use planning tool covering vast landscapes or as a backdoor maneuver to lock up lands, including private property and other inholdings, for purposes that deny public access for recreation and job-creation.”[6]

Because the AA does not provide a procedure the President must follow in declaring a national monument, there is no formal way in which environmental concerns and public input are taken into consideration.[7]  Additionally, although the AA commonly results in land use restrictions including constraints on logging, mineral and energy development, and recreational uses, there is no formal process for states and counties to voice concern about threats to economic development, education funding, jobs, and revenues.[8]  “The [AA] has been abused by Presidents of both parties, particularly in the West where the timing and large scope of many designations have resulted in unnecessary hardship to local communities dependent upon access and use of the land and resources within the designations.”[9] 

H.R. 1459 addresses these issues by subjecting presidential proclamations under the AA to NEPA, thereby guaranteeing public participation in the designation process.  The bill also ensures no state is disproportionately impacted by limiting presidential proclamations to one per state during a four-year presidential term without an express act of Congress.

[1] 16 U.S.C. § 431.

[2] Id.

[3] Carol Hardy Vincent & Kristina Alexander, National Monuments and the Antiquities Act, Congressional Research Service (Mar. 21, 2014) at 2.

[4] Id.  Such monuments have included the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  “President Obama has designated nine new national monuments in eight states, ranging in size from an estimated 10.5 acres to 242,555 acres.  The President also enlarged one monument in California.”  Id. at 11.

[5] Id. at 4.

[6] Id. at 2.

[7] Id. at 9.

[8] Id. at 7-8.

[9] Committee Report 113-221 at 2.


According to CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 1459 would cost approximately $2 million over the 2014-2018 period.  The bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.


1)         Rep. Bishop (R-UT) Manager’s Amendment #3 – Amendment clarifies process for monument designations of 5,000 acres or less which allows temporary designation if imminent threat to antiquity and permanent designation if President follows NEPA review process or Congress enacts law. Amendment also clarifies that President is to use existing resources for monument designation process.

2)         Rep. Barber (D-AZ) Amendment #5 – Amendment requires the bill's feasibility study to include an assessment of the monument declaration's benefits, including jobs and tourism dollars associated with managing a monument in perpetuity.

3)         Rep. Tsongas (D-MA) Amendment #1 – Amendment preserves the ability of the President to declare as national monuments those that provide for the “protection or conservation of historic or cultural resources related to American military history,” regardless of their size. 

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.