The Improved National Monument Designation Process Act (H.R. 1459) passed the House on March 26 by a vote of 222 to 201. It is currently before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. S. 2608s purpose is to provide for congressional approval of national monuments and of restrictions on their use. It would limit President Obamas ability to designate national monuments at his own discretion through executive orders.
The presidential authority to make such designations comes from the Antiquities Act of 1906. The act allows the president to unilaterally impose tighter restrictions on the use of federally owned public land as a means to protect national treasures. The restriction is often based on environmental concerns and it encounters stiff resistance on the state level, especially when it disrupts commercial interests like fishing, drilling, mining or timber.