• Outdoors Outdoors

Biden plans to bypass Congress to protect thousands of acres with one action — here's why it matters

The move will come after Congress failed to act to approve the measures.

The move will come after Congress failed to act to approve the measures.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

President Joe Biden is planning to use his executive authority to expand the borders of two national monuments, protecting more than 100,000 acres of nature, sources told the Washington Post.

Though the White House had yet to confirm the move as of mid-April, Biden is expected to expand the perimeters of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by about 110,000 acres and the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument by about 13,000 acres, according to CNN. Both monuments are located in California and were originally designated by former President Barack Obama.

As the Washington Post reported, the move will come after Congress failed to act to approve the measures. Biden will use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which granted authority to the President of the United States to establish national monuments from existing federal lands. The historic law was the first in the United States "to provide general legal protection of cultural and natural resources of historic or scientific interest on federal lands," per the National Park Service.

"The San Gabriel Mountains are among the most pristine and beautiful public lands in the country, with more visitors annually than Yellowstone, and they are right next to one of the nation's densest and most park-deprived population centers," said California Representative Judy Chu, who lobbied for the monument to be expanded, in a statement reported by the Post.

In addition to these impending expansions, Biden has created five new national monuments while in office, conserving more than 24 million acres of land in total, per a White House press release and CNN.

Conversely, former President Donald Trump, who will face Biden for the second time in the 2024 presidential election, has been called "the most anti-nature President in U.S. history." According to the Center for American Progress, Trump attempted to remove protections from nearly 35 million acres of public lands (with some of those attempts being overturned) and loosened environmental regulations meant to curb pollution.

Critics of these policies explained them as the Trump administration essentially giving "handouts to its favored polluting industries — drillers, miners, and industrial clear-cutting operations — at the expense of wildlife facing extinction," as David Henkin, an attorney for Earthjustice, put it.

Biden could be better on climate issues, having issued an equivalent number of oil and gas drilling permits to Trump. However, his willingness to protect public lands does set the two candidates apart.

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