By Sean Hecht (“Go Blue”), here.
But the idea that large monument designations are new or inappropriate is, much like other current right-wing narratives about the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies, a false story based on false history. Bears Ears contains tens of thousands of culturally and archaeologically significant sites. In this case, as in others, preserving a large area of land is warranted in order to adequately protect unique ecological and cultural resources. Beyond that, the history of the Act’s application, and the history of court decisions interpreting the Act, demonstrate that since the Act’s enactment, Presidents have lawfully designated large monuments to protect landscapes, ecosystems, and natural features as well as culturally important sites.
I haven’t done the math to fact-check the claim by Secretary Zinke that “since the 1900s, when the Act was first used, the average size of national monuments exploded from an average of 422 acres per monument.” The claim is written so ambiguously that it may mean any number of things. But any cursory look at the history of monument designations reveals that this claim, and similar claims by Sen. Hatch and others, are false or extraordinarily misleading.
In fact, the Antiquities Act has been used to protect enormous areas of land since 1908, when President Roosevelt designated the 818,000-acre Grand Canyon National Monument. He also designated the 615,000-acre Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909, and the 60,000-acre Petrified Forest National Monument in 1906, within a few months of the passage of the Act.
And from HuffPo: “Why Trump Doesn’t Have The Power To Mess With National Monuments.”