Federal Land Management:

Information on Usage of the Antiquities Act

RCED-99-244R: Published: Jul 9, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been used since its passage, focusing on: (1) the monuments that have been established under the act; and (2) a comparison of the requirements, if any, for environmental documentation and public participation, and of the processes, if any, for facilitating congressional oversight found in the act and in three other pieces of legislation--the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA).

GAO noted that: (1) since 1906, 105 national monuments have been established by presidential proclamation; (2) when established, these monuments comprised almost 63 million acres; (3) of the 105 monuments, 89 were established before NEPA was passed in 1969 and covered almost 7 million acres; (4) in December 1978, 15 additional national monuments, covering over 54 million acres, were established in Alaska; (5) the next, and most recent, use of the Antiquities Act occurred in September 1996, when almost 2 million acres in southern Utah were designated as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; (6) the Antiquities Act confers presidential authority; it contains no requirements for environmental documentation or public participation and includes no processes for facilitating congressional oversight; (7) however, the act does not preclude the President from requiring that environmental effects be documented or from soliciting public participation or congressional involvement; (8) NEPA, whose purpose is, in part, to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment, requires federal agencies to prepare statements for major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment; (9) although the act does not require agencies to report directly to Congress on proposed or actual major federal actions, it does facilitate congressional oversight by requiring public disclosure of agencies' analyses of proposed major federal actions; (10) it also requires the President to report annually to Congress on the condition of the environment and on trends in the quality, management, and use of the nation's natural resources; (11) FLPMA, which established planning guidelines for public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, requires that the Secretary of the Interior develop plans for the lands' use and management; (12) FLPMA further requires that the Secretary, in preparing these plans, give priority to protecting areas of critical environmental concern, taking into account present and potential uses of the land, and weighing long-term and short-term benefits; (13) NFMA, which established a land-use planning process for the Forest Service, specifically requires that the Secretary of Agriculture prepare plans for managing the national forests in accordance with the requirements of NEPA; and (14) NFMA directed the Secretary to issue regulations specifying when and for what plans an environmental impact statement shall be prepared.

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