Top Republicans are accusing President Obama of another “surreptitious land grab” after the administration claimed more than 1 million acres in California, Texas and Nevada to designate as national monuments.
Mr. Obama formally designated the land Friday afternoon.
“One of the great legacies of this incredible country … is our national parks and national monuments. It is something that we pass on from generation to generation,” the president said in brief comments in the Oval Office.
With the move, Mr. Obama has established or expanded 19 national monuments, taking 260 million acres of land and placing it under control of the federal government. Critics say the administration simply wants to expand government control across the country.
“This surreptitious land grab reveals that the Obama administration will stop at nothing to lock up more and more land, with the stroke of a pen. I condemn this shameful power move, which makes states and citizens fearful that the federal government can invade at any time to seize more lands like bandits in the night,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “How this decree impacts people and their livelihoods — including public safety, water rights, economic development, recreation and grazing — should be handled by Congress before a designation, not after the fact. Once again, the Obama administration has put politics above people. Now, Congress is left to fix the mess made by the White House.”
The new monuments are: the Berryessa Snow Mountain in California; Waco Mammoth in Texas, a paleontological site including the remains of 24 Columbian mammoths; and the Basin and Range outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Basin and Range, the White House said, includes rock art dating back about 4,000 years.
The designations will result in economic benefits, the administration said.
“These monuments will also provide a boost to local economies by attracting visitors and generating more revenue and jobs for local communities, further supporting an outdoor recreation industry that already generates $646 billion in consumer spending each year,” the White House said in a fact sheet explaining the designations.
Environmentalists praised the move, saying Mr. Obama is taking a concrete step to preserve pristine parts of the nation for future generations.
“This is a gift to all Americans. By following through on his promise to make use of his executive powers to protect more public lands, President Obama also has burnished his conservation legacy,” said Sharon Buccino, director of the land and wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s heartening to know that our children and all future generations will have the opportunity to learn and draw inspiration from their visits to these beautiful, uniquely American places.”
One designation had support from the last Republican in the White House.
“Today is a special day for Texas! President Bush and I are thrilled that the Waco Mammoth Site is America’s newest national monument. I applaud President Obama, the city of Waco, Baylor University, and now the National Park Service, who worked to develop, preserve, and champion the Waco Mammoth Site,” former first lady Laura Bush said in a statement.