Cumberland Times-News

Outdoors

March 29, 2014

Retirees denounce national parks bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In what may be the single darkest day ever for U.S. national monuments and parks, extreme politics prevailed Wednesday when the U.S. House of Representatives voted in support of H.R. 1459 (widely known as the Anti-National Parks Bill), according to the 950-member Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

If previous presidents had been stripped of the 1906 Antiquities Act authority to create monuments, they would not have been able to preserve and protect key aspects of America, including what are now national parks.

Since President Teddy Roosevelt pushed for the passage of the Antiquities Act, it has been used on a bipartisan basis by 16 Presidents (eight Republicans and eight Democrats) to protect America’s most iconic natural, cultural, and historic places: the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, Acadia, Zion, Grand Teton, and Olympic National Parks.  Half of our National Parks were originally protected using the Antiquities Act.

On behalf of the coalition, Maureen Finnerty, the former superintendent of Everglades and Olympic National Parks, said, “For those of us who have worked for years to keep America’s national parks and monuments truly bipartisan and non-political, the vote is a tragic development. Now, our national parks and monuments are being treated as a political football that is being kicked around, for the sake of nothing more than crass political posturing.

The passage of H.R. 1459 marks a sad day for America. Proposed changes to the Antiquities Act are baseless, unwarranted and contrived strictly for political gain. The lawmakers in Washington who voted for this bill need to re-study American History 101 because many holding the reins of power have forgotten why our ancestors gave the White House powers to protect public lands.

Do the House members who passed H.R. 1459 understand that a large majority of Americans want our government to continue to identify and protect National Parks and Monuments? The idea of a public good has been lost on these lawmakers. At no point have landmark laws established to protect the special historical places we cherish been more vulnerable to attack from inside our own government.

H.R. 1459 changes the ground rules for how the federal government will designate protected lands. The goal of bill sponsors is to have not more but less protection, less attention to places that are nationally significant resources and should be national monuments.

 

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