Obama to Designate New National Monuments

The move is the latest in a series of presidential executive actions.

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Faced with a daunting set of conflicts with his conservative adversaries in Congress, President Obama has served notice that he is willing to take unilateral action to get his way. On Monday, he will show again that this was no idle threat.

Obama will bypass Congress and designate land in five states as new national monuments, White House officials say. He derives this power from the Antiquities Act, which for more than a century has allowed presidents to unilaterally protect natural and historic sites.

[PHOTOS: Obama Establishes 5 New National Monuments.]

Obama will designate the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio; the First State National Monument in Delaware; the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland; the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; and the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington state, according to administration officials.

Obama advisers say he is making the moves because Congress has failed to act on the president's recommendations for protecting public lands and creating new national parks.

In this photo taken on July 3, 2009, Ross Jonak rides across a bridge in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, Wash. President Obama announced plans in 2013 to designate the San Juan Islands National Monument.
In this photo taken on July 3, 2009, Ross Jonak rides across a bridge in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, Wash. President Obama announced plans in 2013 to designate the San Juan Islands National Monument.

But Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, blasts Obama for going too far.

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"The use of the Antiquities Act cuts out public participation," Bishop says. "There is a right way to designate federal lands, and there is a wrong way.

"Executive fiat is unquestionably the wrong way and is an abuse of executive privilege. The fact that Congress doesn't capitulate to the president's political whims on his specific time line is hardly justification for taking unilateral action."

Obama says he will also bypass Congress by taking executive action to limit climate change unless the legislators act.

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He has already used his executive authority in a number of ways: He has authorized drones to kill U.S. citizens and others abroad who are suspected of terrorism, delayed the deportation of young illegal immigrants and told the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defined marriage as existing only between a man and a woman.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.