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Young Legislation Blocks Presidential Power to Lock Away Oceans

Bill Would Require Congressional Approval for Marine Monument Declarations

Washington, D.C.Alaskan Congressman Don Young introduced legislation last week with Congressman Steve Southerland (R-FL) to prevent the future closure of oceans from economic and recreational activity, including resource development and fishing, without the approval of Congress. The introduction of the Marine Access and State Transparency (MAST) Act comes in direct response to President Obama’s unilateral decision to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by more than eight times its current size.

“This massive expansion of executive power by President Obama, which would effectively close off an area 1.2 times the size of the state of Alaska, is extremely troubling to me and a number of my colleagues in Congress,” said Congressman Don Young. “The President fails to realize the social and economic impacts associated with expanding this marine monument and the crippling effects it would have on the people and industries that depend on the area for activities like fishing, energy production, and recreation. No President should close off even one square mile of land or ocean, let alone 782,000 square miles, without first seeking approval from Congress and properly consulting and hearing input from those who depend on it.”

The MAST Act would prevent the President from declaring marine monuments under the Antiquities Act without the approval of Congress and certification of its compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The bill specifically addresses attempts to close off any areas within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the 200 miles area that stretches from the edge of state waters. The legislation would prohibit any area of the EEZ from being made into national monuments without:

  • An act of Congress
  • A proposal submitted by the President to the State or Territorial Governor if the area is within 100 nautical miles of that State or Territory
  • Approval by a State or Territorial Legislature

The legislation also prevents the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of Commerce for any area of the EEZ, from implementing restrictions on the public use of a national monument until after an appropriate review period, in order to provide for public input and congressional approval.

This week, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) -comprised of Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Guam- released an analysis of President Obama’s plan to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The group determined that:

“It would provide no added conservation benefit to marine resources, but will economically harm the area's fishermen and those reliant on Pacific marine resources…the Council members are urging the Administration to continue allowing US fishermen into these areas.

The WPRFMC also said that “the Administration failed to consult the WPRFMC about the true economic and environmental impacts of its plan to expand the Monument” and “recommends modifications to the Antiquities Act to prevent similar such unilateral declarations in the future, which override existing fisheries management statutes, such as the Magnuson-Steven Fishery Conservation and Management Act.”

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