In what appears to be a thinly-veiled slap in the face to President-Elect Donald Trump, who’s made it clear that he supports expanded domestic energy production, outgoing President Barack Obama has once again decided to seize land in the United States and place it under the jurisdiction of the federal government, effectively rendering it off-limits to any and all human activity.
Taking advantage of a little-known law passed by former President Theodore Roosevelt back in 1906, Obama has officially declared 1.5 million acres of U.S. land, most of which is located in the state of Utah, as “national monuments.” By doing this, said land will be closed of to any sort of human expansion, including for development, farming, or energy use.
Reports indicate that the 1.3 million acres of land in Utah has been declared as the “Bears Ears Monument” in honor of Native American tribes and other conservationist groups that claim it to be sacred. Obama has also claimed another 300,000 acres of land in Clark County, Nevada, declaring it to be the “Gold Butte National Monument” for many of the same reasons.
Despite bipartisan opposition from Utah’s state legislature, which vehemently opposed this unprecedented land grab, Obama went through it anyway, presumably to stifle potential efforts by the incoming administration to utilize these geographical locales for domestic energy production — even when doing so would help decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil and other forms of energy.
“It’s 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,” said Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz during a recent interview with Fox News.
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There have been many instances during Obama’s eight years in the Oval Office when the controversial president decided to seize land for federal purposes. Since his first inauguration, Obama has collectively seized more than half a billion acres of land and water in the federal interest, utilizing the so-called “Antiquities Act of 1906,” the law that allowed him to do so, a whopping 29 times.
In 2016 alone, Obama claimed more than 260 million acres as federally-protected space, including a 100-million-acre piece of land in Alaska that’s roughly equivalent in size to the entire state of New Mexico. Obama has also utilized the Antiquities Act of 1906 more times than any other president since it first became law, his executive land grabs accounting for some 20 percent of all such land grabs combined.
“In the eight years he’s been in office, President Obama has seized more than 553 million acres of land and water (roughly 865,000 square miles) and placed it under federal ownership and control — enough square mileage to cover the entire state of Texas more than three times over,” writes Brittany Hughes for MRCTV.com.
“In fact, the 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.”
House Republicans are already moving forward with trying to reverse these land grabs and restore control of the seized lands back to state and local jurisdictions. But this may not be possible, some reports indicate, as such reversals may not be lawful. At the same time, Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to seize land for non-emergency political purposes may, in and of itself, not have been lawful in the first place.
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