The Utah Farm Bureau Federation recently testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. The hearing featured six bills related to various aspects of federal land management. The Natural Resources Committee invited Wade Garrett, Vice President for Advocacy and Strategic Relationships, to present on H.R. 5499 sponsored by Representative Miller-Meeks of Iowa, and on H.R. 7006, sponsored by Representative Curtis of Utah. The Utah Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau policy support both bills and each provide important protections against federal government overreach and severe restrictions on federal lands.

H.R. 5499 would amend the Antiquities Act of 1906 to require Congressional approval of presidential declarations within six months of a designation or before the last day of the sitting Congress during which the monument was designated, whichever comes first. If the national monument is not approved by Congress, the land covered in that proclamation cannot be designated again by the President for 25 years. This legislation would maintain the flexibility currently afforded by the Antiquities Act to expeditiously safeguard threatened sites while protecting against executive overreach.

This hearing came at a crucial time, as Utah is once again in the national spotlight regarding national monuments and other restrictions on federal public lands. For more than a century, the President of the United States has had the power to unilaterally designate federal lands as a national monument without the input or consent of Congress, state and local governments, or affected citizens. The Antiquities Act is itself a relic of the past as it pre-dates the establishment of five states, the establishment of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service, and the enactment of major environmental and archeological resource protection laws. Use of the Antiquities Act is a blunt tool of the executive that does not provide for the robust public process that Americans expect and that decisions of this magnitude merit in the modern era. The designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in Utah were clear abuses of the original intent of the Antiquities Act, as they set aside far more land than was necessary to meet the law’s purpose. Such abuses of the Antiquities Act hinder economic opportunity and remove decision making from the states and private citizens. These designations affect grazing rights, water rights, and even access to state and private lands. 

H.R. 7006 would prohibit Natural Asset Companies (NACs) from entering into any agreements involving Utah’s lands or natural assets related to those lands. A NAC is a proposed new corporation “whose primary purpose is to actively manage, maintain, restore (as applicable), and grow the value of natural assets and their production of ecosystem services.” To conserve natural assets, NACs would “hold the rights to the ecological performance” of prescribed areas, potentially including federal lands, for “conservation, restoration, or sustainable management.” Utah Farm Bureau is extremely concerned about NACs, especially considering the BLM’s recent Conservation and Landscape Health Proposed Rule which would redefine multiple use to include “conservation” as a use and to offer conservation leases to outside entities. Federal lands should be managed under statutory multiple use mandates, not locked up in perpetuity by a private company through a natural asset accounting scheme. 

To watch Wade’s full testimony before the Natural Resources Committee, please click here. You can read Wade’s full written statement by clicking here.