Antiquities Act – River Fest speaker favors national monuments
River Fest Speaker favors monuments
June 2, 2017
Charlotte Overby, of the Conservation Lands Foundation, drove all the way from Durango to speak to a packed house at the Chief Theater in Steamboat Springs June 1, where she praised U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner for his track record of sticking up for national monuments and the Antiquities Act.
"Sen. Gardner has a history of defending the Antiquities Act in the past and understands who we are in Colorado," she said.
The occasion was the annual "State of the Yampa Address," hosted by the nonprofit Friends of the Yampa on the eve of its annual river fest. Overby's concern is the 26 national monuments now being considered by the Trump Administration for possibly having their statuses removed.
The White House has allowed for a public comment period on President Donald Trump's executive order before decisions are made July 10.
Overby noted that both Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Northwest Colorado, have asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to remove Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, near Cortez, from a list of 26 monuments being considered for a change in status. However, Overby said, Gardner could play a critical role in what may be a close Senate vote about the future of the national monuments under consideration, including the newest, Bears Ears National Monument in Southern Utah, and with it, Escalante Grand Staircase, which links a number of national parks into a single large geographic region.
Not on the list is Dinosaur National Monument in Moffat County. And Overby was pleased to say that Browns Canyon National Monument, on the Arkansas River near Salida, is Colorado's newest national monument and is safe from the the administration's status review.
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"We need the Antiquities Act so future generations and go down the Arkansas in Brown's Canyon," Overby said.
Trump has taken the position that creation of new national monuments amounts to misuse of the Antiquities Act, but Overby said the act allows presidents to create national monuments, not only to preserve prehistoric structures, but also historic landmarks. It has been used by 16 presidents, both Republican and Democrat, to preserve public lands outside the slow-moving legislative process.
In recognition of her Steamboat audience, Overby reviewed that it was President Woodrow Wilson who originally created Dinosaur National Monument at a modest 80 acres in 1915 in an effort to protect a significant quarry of dinosaur fossils. That act was followed by the action of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, in 1938, expanded the size of the monument by 200,000 acres to include the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers.
It was Roosevelt's expansion of Dinosaur that helped project the Yampa from being inundated by the Echo Park Dam in the 1950s.