During his eight years in the White House, President Obama has confiscated enough of America’s land and water to cover the state of Texas three times, according to a new report from the Media Research Center’s MRCTV.
In total, the president has placed under federal control more than 553 million acres of U.S. land and water, or about 865,000 square miles. Obama has used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to appropriate large stretches of land and water 29 times. He claimed 260 million acres for federal control in 2016 alone.
“[T]he self-aggrandizing conservationist-in-chief has placed more land and coastal areas under federal control than any other president in history, shutting off millions of miles of land to energy production or human settlement, along with shifting it outside the scope of local and state jurisdictions,” wrote MRCTV’s Brittany Hughes.
The federal land grab continued last week when Obama designated 1.5 million acres for two national monuments, Bears Ears in Utah (1.35 million acres) and Gold Butte in Nevada (300,000 acres).
Some state and federal lawmakers disagreed with Obama’s decision to claim the property for the federal government. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Fox News, “[Bears Ears] was one of the biggest land grabs in the history of the United States, and it was done as this midnight monument in the waning hours of the Obama administration.”
MRCTV reported, “Utah’s state legislature … opposed the unilateral land grab across party lines, with many speculating that Obama’s move is the latest in an attempt to limit efforts from incoming President Donald Trump to expand domestic energy production.”
As for Nevada, Obama’s seizure means the designated area is closed to uranium mining, oil drilling or natural gas production.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said Obama’s “unilateral land grab” is “a last-minute attempt to cement his environmental legacy by undermining local control of Nevada’s communities, and damaging our jobs and economy.”
The federal government has claimed a full 25 percent of all the land in the U.S. – 50 percent of it west of the Rockies, 80 percent of Nevada land and 65 percent of Utah.
In August of 2016, the Washington Post reported Obama “created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet” when he expanded a national marine monument in Hawaii to 582,578 square miles. Obama said, “It is in the public interest to preserve the marine environment.”
But the president’s move ended commercial fishing and future deep-sea mining in the area. The White House said the president’s unilateral decision was necessary due to inaction by Congress.
“White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama “would be happy to sign into law a piece of legislation that would have protected these waters, but we haven’t see that kind of legislative activity in this Congress, and it means the president has had to make more effective use of his executive authority.”
Obama’s Hawaii preserve expansion came at a substantial cost to the state’s fishing industry. The National Marine Fisheries Service’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center said the decision “may account for a potential loss of about 2.5 million pounds per year of tuna and other pelagic species worth on average $8 million, more than $9 million in fishery support businesses (e.g., fuel, gear, ice, etc.), $4.2 million in household income and $0.5 million in tax revenue and affect more than 100 jobs.”
The Obama administration also claimed 100 million acres of land in Alaska.
Obama’s designations make up about 20 percent of all executive land grabs in the last 110 years, MRCTV reported.
However, Todd Gaziano, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and executive director of the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Center in Washington, D.C., said incoming President Donald Trump can reverse many of Obama’s federal land and water claims:
Mr. Obama has repeatedly abused his authority under the Antiquities Act to declare vast new national monuments, including on the high seas. …
The original purpose of the Antiquities Act was to protect archaeological sites and historic landmarks that “in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” After studying the president’s legal authority, we conclude that he can rescind monument designations—despite the cursory but contrary view of Attorney General Homer Cummings in 1938. The history of presidential abuse led Congress in 1950 and 1980 to limit the act’s use in Wyoming and Alaska, respectively. While Congress could limit it further, the law’s text and original purposes strongly support a president’s ability to unilaterally correct his predecessors’ abuses.
In other words, none of Mr. Obama’s monument designations or drilling bans is permanent. The grant of power to a president implies the power to rescind it.