Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who witnessed President Donald Trump sign an executive order mandating a review of the Antiquities Act, said there is a need to review the law to ensure that it upholds its original intent.
Torres, who spoke last week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources on House Resolution 339 in Washington, D.C., said that Trump’s EO aims to make sure that people in areas designated as national monuments would benefit.
“I support the President’s decision to review these declarations to ensure they uphold their intents and provide benefits to the people who must live with the long term effects of their [national monuments] presence,” said Torres.
Torres was among those invited for Trump’s signing of the EO last week, along with American Samoa Delegate Aumua Amata Radewagen.
“It was an honor to be invited to join President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to the signing of the Antiquities Act Executive Order,” Torres said.
The Marianas plays host to one national monument, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. Former President George W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 8335 in January 2009 that created the Marianas monument.
Torres said the CNMI has yet to see the fruits of that monument designation but was promised it would reap benefits.
“The people of the CNMI were promised great things from the creation of the Marianas Trench Monument and none of those benefits have ever materialized,” he said.
Then-President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law Public Law 59-209 or the Antiquities Act of 1906. It gives presidents the authority, by presidential proclamation, to turn federal lands into national monuments. A number of presidents have used the act in creating national monuments in order to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features of a particular designated area or land. It often creates controversy and opposition.
Trump’s EO gives Zinke the task to review all proclamations and designations or expansions of designations made under the Antiquities Act from Jan. 1, 1996, to the present.
Zinke would study if, among others, adequate public meetings and coordination were held before creating or expanding a national monument.
Former President Barack Obama also used his executive powers in designating millions of acres of land and water under federal control.