A U.S. House Committee is considering undoing a 1906 federal law that Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to George Bush have used to protect sensitive public lands.
GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana compared the 1906 Antiquities Act to the mythical sword of Damocles, calling it a weapon that can be used against rural communities at any time without warning.
The act has been used by several presidents to create national monuments on federal lands throughout the country.
Critics, particularly in Western States where public lands are used for grazing, logging and mining, have called it an economy killing designation that puts the interests of outside environmental groups over local communities.
"This isn't about preventing future monument designations," said Rehberg, "It's about making sure those designations aren't forced on people who frankly don't want or need them."
But environmental groups say research has found in almost every case, the designation results in growth in employment, personal income and per capita income.
"These bills are out of touch with what the American people care about," said Ryan Bidwell, associate director of the National Monuments Campaign at The Wilderness Society. "Another barrage in a long line of misguided attacks on our lands and waters, and on our recreation economy."
And the U.S. Interior Department issued a statement saying in part, "The Antiquities Act helped establish some of the nation's most familiar monuments, from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty and Muir Woods."