Editorial: Antiquities Act a political weapon that must be reined in

(Carl Sampson, Capital Press) — A young, liberal president seizes on the federal Antiquities Act as a means of impressing his supporters in the environmental camp. Before he is done, an all-out war has erupted over how millions of federally owned acres will be managed.

That was 30 years ago and Jimmy Carter, the newly elected president, set his sights on Alaska -- and the 222 million acres there owned by the federal government -- as a way to make a name for himself within the environmental community.

His weapon of choice was the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to designate national monuments for protection. These monuments are managed by the National Park Service and restrict most uses.

By invoking the Antiquities Act, Carter figured he could make an end-run around Congress if it didn't go along with his plan to lock up 56 million acres of Alaska national monuments. That's on top of the tens of millions of acres already designated national parks, monuments, preserves and refuges in the state.

Congress became so upset with Carter's plan that it slapped a 5,000-acre limit on how much land he could include in a national monument in Alaska. Congress also pulled hard on the federal purse strings, meaning managers could do little or nothing on any new parkland in Alaska.

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