It seems you can’t get anything done in California these days unless you can portray it as some element of the movement to RESIST Trump. (Well, you can try to put everyone on a single payer health plan which cost more than twice the value of the entire state’s economy, but that’s an exception.) The latest brainstorm comes to us from the state’s attorney general, who for some reason believes that the President of the United States doesn’t have any authority to modify national parks or monuments, though where he cooked up this idea remains unclear. (LA Times)
California’s attorney general argued Thursday that President Trump has no legal authority to revoke or modify national monuments created by previous administrations.
In an 11-page letter to the Interior Department, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra vowed “to take any and all legal action necessary” to preserve six California monuments, including one in Los Angeles’ backyard, that the Trump Administration may attempt to revoke or shrink.
In April, Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review all national monuments that were created since 1996 and are larger than 100,000 acres, or were expanded “without adequate public outreach.”
California has good reason to worry about Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke turning their gaze on the Golden State when they’re finished with Bear Ears. There are several more of these “national monuments” there which are nearly as bad. The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is yet another gigantic swath of land taking up more than 345K acres which Obama designated as a “monument” rather than asking Congress to make it a national park.
The real question here is where the state attorney general is getting his information. We’ve been over this here before and the law is pretty clear. If you want to set aside vast tracts of land as a national park, Congress has to do that. The only thing the President can do is create national monuments, but the Antiquities Act of 1906 is pretty clear on what those are supposed to include. (Emphasis added)
That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to the protected:
As to whether or not the President can order changes in status, we have adequate precedent there as well. In 1933 there were 56 National Monuments transferred to the Park Service. The same could be done with the ones in California and then the legislative branch could decide whether to keep them the same, shrink them or do away with them entirely. That’s how the system is set up to work. The state attorney general for California should know better, but this is probably just an effort to hurt the President as opposed to any serious legal inquiry.