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Bill aims to make monument declaration process more public

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at making presidential national monument declaration decisions open to public comment, according to Rep. Kevin Cramer’s office.

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The North Dakota Republican voted for the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act and said the bill requires the president to conduct a review under the National Environmental Policy Act in order to designate a new monument, thereby guaranteeing a public comment period.

Cramer said the legislation could come into play in the future with regard to certain North Dakota landmark sites like the Elkhorn Ranch and the Killdeer Mountains, which both have come under scrutiny in recent months because of nearby energy development.

“This bill protects private property rights and expands citizen involvement in the process of selecting a national monument,” Cramer stated in a release. “With discussion of North Killdeer Mountain and Elkhorn Ranch as potential monument sites in North Dakota, this is an important bill to give our public a say in these decisions.”

During President Barack Obama’s first term, a leaked memo showed plans to designate more than 13 million acres of western United States land as national monuments, according to the Cramer release.

Neither North Dakota site was included in the memo, but have been at the forefront of environmental discussions surrounding the energy industry’s impact on historic sites in the state.

The Congressman said the legislation passed Wednesday addresses land-use restriction and private property concerns by requiring the NEPA process for declarations greater than 5,000 acres, placing a limit of one new monument per state per four-year presidential term, and requiring the affected property owner to provide informed written consent.

Designations of national monuments are made under the Antiquities Act, which was enacted in 1906. Since enactment, 16 of 19 Presidents have created 137 monuments ranging from less than 1 acre to 89 million acres in size.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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