President Obama infamously said, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone – and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.” 

This he did with a vengeance.

One of the most egregious areas he wielded his menacing pen was in expanding federal control over wilderness areas with use of the “Antiquities Act.”

This Act was established in 1906 under President Theodore Roosevelt and was never intended to be a tool used by Uncle Sam to swipe up massive amounts of territory from states and private citizens. As CFACT senior policy analyst Bonner Cohen explains at

It is easily forgotten that the original intent of the Antiquities Act was to protect archeological artifacts and sacred sites of Native Americans located on federal land from poaching and other unnatural disturbances. Indeed, the Antiquities Act calls for monuments to be limited to the “smallest area compatible” with protecting the site or object. It what is a complete distortion of the law’s original intent, monuments designations – whether on land or at sea – frequently involve thousands of square miles that are permanently off-limits to almost any form of economic activity.”

Yes, Obama had “the pen,” but now it has been turned over to President Trump … and he should use it to right these wrongs.

Fortunately, there are indications he may be willing to do so. Recently the President’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signaled he’s taking a few positive first steps to roll back the excessive use of the Antiquities Act, but he needs to go much further.

Again from Cohen:

“It was disappointing that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plans for dealing with national monuments created by previous administrations fell well short of what needs to be done to undo these abuses of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Zinke has proposed eliminating no monuments at all, modifying ten monuments, and narrowing the boundaries of six monuments: the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears and the 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase Escalante (both in Utah), the 98,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, and the nearly 300,000-acre Gold Butte in Nevada, as well as two marine monuments: Pacific Remote Islands and Ross Atoll.”

To step up efforts at reforming the Antiquities Act, CFACT recently joined a coalition of free market organizations in co-signing a letter to President Trump urging him to have Secretary Zinke act more decisively to eliminate and reign in Obama’s national monument land grabs.  We posted it at

The letter concludes:

Federal law has also been circumvented by the executive branch in designating national monuments.   It is time for this unconstitutional practice to end.”


  • Craig Rucker is a co-founder of CFACT and currently serves as its president.