Response to Richard H. Seamon, Dismantling Monuments
On December 4, 2017, President Trump shrank Bears Ears by 85% and the Grand Staircase Escalante by almost 50%. The question at the heart of the lawsuits that followed is simple: does the President have the legal authority to dismember our national monuments? I believe that he does not, and that Dismantling Monuments did not delve deep enough in its analysis. Questions of presidential powers necessarily begin with the U.S. Constitution, which is clear: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory and other Property belonging to the United States. . . .” No comparable grant of power over our public lands was made to the President, so Congress must delegate its power to the President before he can act in this arena. In passing the Antiquities Act of 1906, Congress empowered the President to create national monuments. The Act and its legislative history, however, never mention monument reduction. The question is therefore how to interpret congressional silence?