Coordinating Monument Management Plans - Coordination Works

American Stewards of Liberty

July 29, 2010

Earlier this year, the Department of Interior released a list of 14 areas in the West they were recommending to President Obama for designation as National Monuments. A Monument designation severely restricts the use of the land as the agencies now must manage for the protection of the historical, cultural, and scientific interests, instead of the traditional multi-use of the land.

While the coordination process cannot stop the President from designating land as National Monuments, it can and should be asserted once an area has been designated and development of the Monument Management Plan begins.

Coordination is the process mandated by Congress that requires the federal agencies to work to resolve inconsistencies between local governments and federal planning and management activities (See The Five Elements of Coordination).  Once a monument designation is made, a Monument Management Plan must be developed and local governments asserting their coordinate authority have a way to insist that their local economy and the property rights of the citizens be protected.

Using the Antiquities Act of 1906, the President can change the designation of lands within federal ownership or control into a protected National Monument by Executive Order.  It can be decided and executed within minutes.  There is no requirement for environmental studies to be conducted or the public be involved in the process.  Congress gave the President this authority under the auspices of preserving important historic, cultural and scientific interests.

This authority has been used to protect small tracts of lands with archeological treasures, as well as, expansive areas of land such as the 1.9 million-acre Grand-Staircase Escalante Monument in Utah set aside by President Clinton.  Over the years, President’s have used this authority approximately 120 times effecting 70 million acres.

While the coordination process cannot be used to stop the designation of a monument, just as it cannot be used to stop a legislative act of Congress that designates Wilderness Areas and National Heritage Areas, local governments can use the coordination process to ensure the agency in charge works to consider and resolve the local position during the development of the Management Plans.  Agencies managing monuments today include the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

Once the designation is made, the agency must then begin the development of a new Management Plan.  Because the priority of the agency is now to preserve the area, the historic uses of the land such as grazing, mining, timber harvesting and recreational uses, become restricted or eliminated all together.  Private property owners who live within or on the border of the area find the use of their land incompatible with the new rules for the monument.

However, those local governments that insist on coordination will have a meaningful seat at the table during the development of the Management Plan and can advocate for multiple issues including continued access, timber harvesting, and use of and respect for property rights.

If you live in one of the areas recommended by the Department of Interior as a potential monument candidate, then you need to organize your neighbors to oppose the designation.  In reality, political and public pressure is the only way to try and stop the listing in the first place.

But, should the president decide to make the designation, local governments have a golden opportunity to protect its citizens, its tax base and the property rights of landowners if it utilizes coordination.

You may want to begin educating your community on the coordination process so that if your area does find itself under the President’s pen for designation, your local governments are in position to have a meaningful seat at the planning table to advocate for the protection of your rights and way of life.

Learn more about the coordination process.

Learn how to bring a coordination training seminar to your area.

For more information on the Antiquities Act read the Congressional Research Service’s Report.