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Legislation would strip president's right to name national monuments

New legislation has been introduced to require congressional approval of any more national monuments. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) introduced the Marine Access and State Transparency Act or MAST Act (H.R. 4988), which would end the president's authority to designate national monuments without congressional approval. It would also set new requirements for designating marine national monuments.

The legislation first became available online on the congressional website on Thursday, July 3. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Only Rep. Don Young (R-Ala.) has cosponsored the bill.

The MAST Act would amend the law commonly known as the Antiquities Act of 1906 to require the president to certify that all new national monument designations comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Congress would have to agree to any such designation.

Regarding marine national monuments, before naming one, the president would have to notify the governor of any state or territory within 100 nautical miles and get the state's approval, as well as getting congressional approval.

The bill would prohibit the departments of Interior and Commerce from restricting any economic activity in marine national monuments' exclusive economic zones without congressional approval and before allowing a public comment and review period.

Under current law, marine national monuments are designated to protect marine areas, similar to national marine sanctuaries. The difference lies mainly in the designation process. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration designates sanctuaries and the president proclaims monuments. President Barack Obama declared three in the Pacific in 2009. Currently, all five lie within waters around Pacific Ocean territories.

Last year, the National Park Service strongly objected to legislation to restrict the president's ability to name national monuments. The National Monument Designation Transparency & Accountability Act (H.R. 2192) was introduced in May 2013 before the same committee. While its Subcommittee on Public Lands & Environmental Regulation conducted a hearing on it in June, 2013, it never voted on it.

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