Yes, Trump Has the Power to Shrink National Monuments

 

President Trump announced Monday that he will shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, declared only a year ago by President Obama, by 1 million acres (an 85 percent reduction). He also declared that he would shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument by 800,000 acres (a 46 percent reduction).

Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City that he came to “reverse federal overreach” and took dramatic action “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

Regardless of the merits of reduction, it should be clear that President Trump has the authority to shrink or totally reverse the declaration of a national monument by a previous President. Presidents can designate national monuments under a delegation by Congress in the Antiquities Act of 1906. The Act does not address the process for reversing the designation, but neither do most statutes. Instead, we assume that a lawmaker uses the same process to undo a legal act — Congress passes a new statute to repeal an earlier law.

When the Constitution recognizes deviations from this principle, it does so to favor presidential power. Thus, the President alone can fire officers who required presidential nomination and Senate approval; the President can unilaterally terminate a treaty, even though it requires a presidential signature and the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate.

In this case, the silence of Congress does not mean there is only a power to make permanent monuments with no process for repeal (other than an Act of Congress). Otherwise, Trump could designate all of his golf courses as national monuments, and future Presidents would be helpless. A future President’s power to reverse exercises a significant restraint on a current President’s power.

Published in Environment, Law
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 21 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Could we get some preemptive commentary on the oral arguments in Masterpiece Cake Shop v. CCRC, now?

    • #1
  2. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Okay, I have to admit this, but when I first read the headlines to the story about shrinking this national monument I just pictured Trump as some sort of cartoon villain literally shrinking a statue, and my first thoughts where, how would he even do that? I find the notion of declaring large swaths of land as “monuments” do be utterly ridiculous. Does monument not imply some sort of human artifice or construction? How can a forest, river, mountain etc. be a monument?

    • #2
  3. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    John,

    SHRINK THE SWAMP! Sorry, I got carried away.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #3
  4. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    This power to reverse unilateral designations is so obvious it is stunning that liberals suggest to the contrary.  But they do.

    • #4
  5. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    This power to reverse unilateral designations is so obvious it is stunning that liberals suggest to the contrary. But they do.

    Liberal notion of consistent thought:

    “Of course the president can unilaterally create a monument by the stroke of a pen, because Obama.  Of course no president can unilaterally reverse the creation of a monument, because Trump.”

    • #5
  6. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Okay, I have to admit this, but when I first read the headlines to the story about shrinking this national monument I just pictured Trump as some sort of cartoon villain literally shrinking a statue, and my first thoughts where, how would he even do that? I find the notion of declaring large swaths of land as “monuments” do be utterly ridiculous. Does monument not imply some sort of human artifice or construction? How can a forest, river, mountain etc. be a monument?

    Ha ha! President Doofenschmirtz! I love it, lol.

    • #6
  7. Max Ledoux Coolidge
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    Yes, I’m seeing some of my liberal friends (and family) on Facebook inveighing against Trump’s “illegal” act of “stealing” land.

    • #7
  8. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):
    Yes, I’m seeing some of my liberal friends (and family) on Facebook inveighing against Trump’s “illegal” act of “stealing” land.

    @max I suggested to SWMBO that the environmentalists ask their billionaire/millionaire supporters to buy the land from the Federal Government, then deed it over (or whatever the legal term is) to a group like the Sierra Club (or other “conservation” group) to protect as they see fit.

    Federals out of the land business (at least for these monuments), environmentalists have legal control of the land. Property rights for the win!

    She looked at me like I had two heads….

    • #8
  9. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    danok1 (View Comment):
    hen deed it over (or whatever the legal term is) to a group like the Sierra Club (or other “conservation” group) to protect as they see fit.

    IIRC, from reading Eco-fascistscan really be a racket.

    • #9
  10. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    oops

    • #10
  11. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    John Yoo: Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City that he came to “reverse federal overreach” and took dramatic action “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

    It is statements like this that is really making me warm up to Trump.

    • #11
  12. Ed G. Inactive
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Stina (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Okay, I have to admit this, but when I first read the headlines to the story about shrinking this national monument I just pictured Trump as some sort of cartoon villain literally shrinking a statue, and my first thoughts where, how would he even do that? I find the notion of declaring large swaths of land as “monuments” do be utterly ridiculous. Does monument not imply some sort of human artifice or construction? How can a forest, river, mountain etc. be a monument?

    Ha ha! President Doofenschmirtz! I love it, lol.

    Behold! My deswampenator! It will clear all swamps in the tri-state area!

    • #12
  13. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    The feds own 60% of the land known as Utah and even more in other western states. It’s ridiculous and completely disregards Madison’s view that each state was considered co-equal. The eastern states have little federal ownership compared to those in the west.

    • #13
  14. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    “Yes, Trump Has the Power to Shrink National Monuments.”

    He has a special shrinking machine?

    Honey, I Shrunk the National Monuments.

    2010: “Supreme Court: Cross Can Stay On Federal Land.  A 5-foot cross erected to honor veterans of foreign wars will remain where it has stood within the Mojave National Preserve.”

    However, in 2011: “A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a cross displayed on public property for nearly a century is unconstitutional. Three versions of the Christian symbol have been erected atop 822-foot Mount Soledad in the posh La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, since 1913.”

    And again in 2017: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a towering cross-shaped monument that has marked a major intersection in Prince George’s County for 90 years. In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the 40-foot-tall memorial maintained with thousands of dollars in public funds “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.”

    Simple.  Just declare them national monuments like the cross at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

    • #14
  15. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):
    Yes, I’m seeing some of my liberal friends (and family) on Facebook inveighing against Trump’s “illegal” act of “stealing” land.

    @max I suggested to SWMBO that the environmentalists ask their billionaire/millionaire supporters to buy the land from the Federal Government, then deed it over (or whatever the legal term is) to a group like the Sierra Club (or other “conservation” group) to protect as they see fit.

    Federals out of the land business (at least for these monuments), environmentalists have legal control of the land. Property rights for the win!

    She looked at me like I had two heads….

    Great idea, but Wait!  Then the enviros would have to foot the bill for maintaining that ‘natural’ state of things. That’s scary–to them. They want those huge swaths of naturalness ‘protected’ and maintained by YOU the taxpayer. That’s the whole point.

    • #15
  16. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    John, I’m so glad that you mentioned that this “national monument” was only created last year.  In fact, it was designated by President Obama only after the 2016 election.  A lot of us saw it as an act of political spite by Obama. Most of the “reporting” I have seen on this issue makes no mention of the fact that the “national monuments” under review did not exist for 99% of our country’s history.  Instead, we get quotes like these from one of my state’s Senators:  Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said the administration’s approach to national monuments “threatens over a century of environmental protections guaranteed by the Antiquities Act.”

    The federal government already owns and controls 90% of Nevada.  I guess Senator Cortez Masto won’t be happy until it’s 100%.  “A century of environmental protections” my, umm, left foot.

    • #16
  17. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):
    Yes, I’m seeing some of my liberal friends (and family) on Facebook inveighing against Trump’s “illegal” act of “stealing” land.

    Yup.  The constant litany is disturbing.  Lots of otherwise intelligent people seem to belive now that because they don’t like something it isn’t legal or constitutional.  People who cheered BHO’s phone and pen actions now rage incoherently when the new POTUS undoes them.

    Maybe I have just given them too much credit for their intelligence.

    • #17
  18. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Z in MT (View Comment):

    John Yoo: Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City that he came to “reverse federal overreach” and took dramatic action “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

    It is statements like this that is really making me warm up to Trump.

    It’s a tiny start to right a great injustice.

    • #18
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    Maybe I have just given them too much credit for their intelligence.

    Or not enough credit for their lack of principles.

    • #19
  20. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Z in MT (View Comment):

    John Yoo: Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City that he came to “reverse federal overreach” and took dramatic action “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

    It is statements like this that is really making me warm up to Trump.

    It’s a tiny start to right a great injustice.

    Who owns east Texas?

    • #20
  21. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):
    Yes, I’m seeing some of my liberal friends (and family) on Facebook inveighing against Trump’s “illegal” act of “stealing” land.

    Yup. The constant litany is disturbing. Lots of otherwise intelligent people seem to belive now that because they don’t like something it isn’t legal or constitutional. People who cheered BHO’s phone and pen actions now rage incoherently when the new POTUS undoes them.

    Maybe I have just given them too much credit for their intelligence.

    Intelligence comes into play when the process used is thinking. Leftist foot-soldiers don’t think they feel. Whatever their feeling is about any question determines what they have to say. They disdain those who try to get them to think about these things. Don’t believe it? Check out what they say; it’s never, “Well I think.” but always, “I just feel.” That is why it is so hard to get them to see the flaws in their ‘arguments’. There is no way to argue with feelings which are completely subjective and personal. How can I say you don’t feel what you say you feel. You are the ‘feeler’.

    • #21
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.