Vice presidential candidate Richard Cheney may have spoken too soon in August, when he said George W. Bush might rescind national monuments created by President Clinton (HCN, 9/11/00).
U.S. presidents have created 114
monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, and undoing them is
unlikely, according to University of Colorado law professor Charles
Wilkinson. In 1996, Wilkinson helped Interior Department Solicitor
John Leshy draft Clinton's proclamation creating the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Wilkinson cites a 1938 opinion by Attorney
General Homer Cummings, who worked for Democratic President
Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Interior secretary had asked Roosevelt
to abolish the Castle Pinckney National Monument in Charleston,
S.C., but Cummings concluded that the Antiquities Act didn't allow
"The Supreme Court hasn't spoken to that
directly, but courts have given deference to attorney general
opinions," says Wilkinson.
Harrison Dunning, a
University of California-Davis law professor, sees things
differently. Cummings' opinion doesn't bind the courts, he says,
"and I'd assume that since the president does it in the first
place, another president can say "I don't want it anymore."
Nonetheless, Cheney has backpedaled. While
the Bush camp hasn't ruled out the possibility completely, Cheney
press secretary Juleanna Glover Weiss repeats a statement about
monuments that Bush made last June: "It is a very hard egg to