SEMA-supported legislation (HR 1459) has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to require the president to complete an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before designating more than 5,000 acres as a national monument. The bill would ensure public involvement in the process and discussion of multiple factors, including economic impact. Current law provides the president with authority to declare land of “historic or scientific interest” to be a national monument, which can lead to road closures for motorized recreation, among other activities. While this authority has only been used 137 times in 100 years, vast amounts of land have been set aside in the process. SEMA supports a collaborative approach to land-use decisions, including input from local citizens, elected leaders and other stakeholders.
In 1996, President Clinton set aside 1.9 million acres of land in Southern Utah as the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. President Obama is now under pressure to establish a 1.4 million-acre “Greater Canyonlands National Monument,” closing 1,050 miles of off-road vehicle trails and monitoring another 1,450 miles for future closure. The legislation would ensure public participation in this debate.