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NMWF Applauds Introduction of Sen. Udall Bill to Protect National Monuments

January 30, 2018

For immediate release

ALBUQUERQUE: At a time when our public lands are facing an unprecedented attack from many levels of the federal government, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation applauds the commitment to our public lands shown by Senator Tom Udall. Today, New Mexico’s senior senator introduced legislation that enhances protection for the 51 national monuments established under the Antiquities Act since January 1996 by legislatively recognizing their boundaries. The new legislation is titled “America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States Act of 2018” or, for short, “The ANTIQUITIES ACT of 2018.”

Many of our national monuments addressed in this legislation are under attack or threatened by illegal actions from the Trump administration that would dismantle protections for these prized public lands and waters. Most recently, President Trump took the unprecedented action to eliminate 2 million acres of public lands from Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah, a move that has been already challenge in court through 5 different lawsuits.

This proactive legislation moves forward with the understanding that the presidential proclamations, made by both Democratic and Republican Presidents, that established the monuments are valid and cannot be reduced or diminished by other Presidents. It also acknowledges that only Congress has the authority to diminish existing national monument boundaries.

The ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018, introduced by Senator Udall and co-sponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich and 16 other U.S. Senators (as of release time), will also expand protection for Bears Ears National Monument to over 1.9 million acres, the protection requested by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The act will also codify by Congress our existing Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monuments in New Mexico. The act would provide certainty for New Mexicans that cultural uses, hunting, fishing, and recreation on these public land will continue.

“This legislation goes a long way in protecting the integrity of our national monuments and reflects the will of the American people – who overwhelmingly support keeping our national monuments as they are,” said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Acting Executive Director Todd Leahy. “This legislation will ensure that hunters across New Mexico and the West will continue to have the opportunity to pursue our outdoor traditions.”

“Senators Udall and Heinrich continue to take the lead on advocating for public lands across the West,” said Richard Frias, Chiricahua Apache from the Chihene Nde Nation and founder of Frias Indian Law and Policy. “By cutting Bears Ears and recommending changes to the management of our monuments in New Mexico, the Trump Administration has shown repeatedly that it does not listen to the wishes of the American people. Hopefully this legislation will protect the public lands that belong to all Americans and future generations to come.”

“Our national monuments are places of healing and sacredness for many Americans. We are stewards of these national treasures, and it is our duty to protect them for all people, including future generations,” said Rev. Virginia Bairby, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Taos, NM. “By introducing this legislation today, Senators Udall and Heinrich have once again demonstrated their dedication to our public lands and to protecting these unique and sacred places.”

“We’re thankful that our New Mexico Senators continue to honor the local process and recognize the strong support for both of New Mexico’s newest national monuments,” said Fernando Clemente, sportsman and president of the Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. “It took a lot of work and input from local stakeholders, including sportsmen and women, to get these proclamations right. They do not need to be changed. It’s important we preserve the integrity of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.”