Interior Secretary Sally Jewell plans to recommend that President Barack Obama act unilaterally to create new national monuments and acquire more public land as Congress has failed to act on dozens of bills.
Jewell told The Los Angeles Times
there is a conservation backlog due to gridlock in Congress combined with a shortage of funds due to the budget sequester, but that the Obama Administration will not "hold its breath forever."
"The president will not hesitate," Jewell said. "I can tell you that there are places that are ripe for setting aside, with a tremendous groundswell of public support."
The last year that the federal government added any acres to a national park or wilderness was 2010.
Jewell said some members of Congress are afraid to appear like they support too much government protection.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released a report in October
saying that the government has a "maintenance backlog of $2.6 billion," complaining the National Parks Service is overloaded and many attractions have few visitors.
The new interior secretary, who has been on the job for seven months, was in California touring land that the California Congressional delegation has proposed be added to the California Coastal National Monument, one of the many locations that conservationists believe require government protection.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 passed under Theodore Roosevelt gives presidents the power to acquire more land and name new monuments without consent from Congress for the sake of conservation. It was used by Roosevelt in 1908 to add the Grand Canyon, in the face of local opposition.
Obama has already used the act to acquire and name nine new monuments.
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