WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today questioned President Obama’s decision to use the Antiquities Act to lock up nearly 500,000 acres of public land in New Mexico despite bipartisan legislation moving through Congress to achieve similar goal of protecting the Organ Mountain area.
“The president’s willingness to designate a national monument of this size, despite ongoing efforts in Congress and significant local opposition sets an ominous precedent.” Murkowski said. “And if he is comfortable making his largest national monument with the opposition of local representatives, what does that mean for the rest of us? Today, the concerns of New Mexico lawmakers are being ignored. Tomorrow, maybe it’s someone else.”
The president’s decision contradicts recent statements by Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that her agency would not pursue federal land protection designations in places where there was significant local opposition.
“The fact that this administration says one thing but does another when it comes to management of public lands should concern everyone who lives in Alaska and the West,” Murkowski said.
President Obama’s proclamation will designate 496,000 acres in New Mexico as a national monument. Rep. Steven Pearce, R-N.M., whose congressional district covers the region, has objected to the use of the Antiquities Act to create such a large monument. Pearce has legislation to protect the essential elements of the Organ Mountain areas, which, unlike the president’s designation, has widespread local support, including that of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has written a letter to the president warning that the proposed national monument could impede the ability of law enforcement to deal with drug trafficking and other criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sen. Murkowski is Alaska’s senior senator and the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.