Interior Secretary: Obama Will Use Executive Powers to Conserve Lands


WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will use his executive powers to protect more mountains, rivers and forests from development if Congress does not act to preserve such wild spaces, the U.S. Interior Secretary said on Thursday.

Portions of the Grand Canyon, Redwood forests in California and Caribbean seascapes have been protected under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president broad authority to put natural terrain and historic sites under federal protection.

Such preservation efforts can also come through Congress but presidents in a second term have typically felt freer to designate such spaces unilaterally.

On Thursday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the president was ready to move ahead.

"There's no question that if Congress doesn't act, we will act," Jewell said at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington.

Lawmakers have proposed roughly two dozen sites for federal protection, but partisan divisions have helped stall many of those plans.

Jewell, the former chief executive of outdoor gear and clothing retailer REI, said proposals that have backing in Congress - including planned designation of coastal regions of California and Maine as well as a swath of the Arizona desert - are among the first that could be considered.


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