As audiences flock this week to 600 screens across the country to see the new movie based on Hispanic labor leader Cesar Chavez and the struggle he led for the rights of farm workers, there’s something they should know. Ironically, the U.S. House of Representatives plans on voting this same week, on Wednesday, on a bill that would gut the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments like the one he designated for Cesar Chavez less than two years ago.
When he designated that national monument at La Paz where Chavez led the UFW until his death in 1993, President Obama spoke about the importance of these parks in telling the story of America.
“It's a story of natural wonders and modern marvels; of fierce battles and quiet progress,” the President told the family and friends of Chavez who attended that day. “But it's also a story of people -- of determined, fearless, hopeful people who have always been willing to devote their lives to making this country a little more just and a little more free.”
It was a recognition long overdue, both for Chavez but also for the American people who count on their parks to share their stories with each successive generation. The bill being voted on in Congress this week would have made that impossible, and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) opposes it.
While the President designated La Paz in 2012, Congress itself had not protected a single new acre of public land since 2009. That remained the case up until just last week, which was the longest gap since World War II. With Congress refusing to advance dozens of locally-supported bills led by members from both parties that would create new national parks and other conservation areas, it’s critical that we protect the President’s right to do so.
We’ve written to every member of the House of Representatives explaining that H.R. 1459 “is an assault on our nation’s most important conservation tool, the Antiquities Act of 1906, which Congress enacted so that presidents could move swiftly in the face of congressional inaction to protect areas that showcase America’s natural, cultural, and historic beauty.”
Go watch the Cesar Chavez movie, but before you do that, make sure you let your member of Congress know we’re paying attention, and we expect them to vote down this offensive bill.
Jennifer Allen is LCV’s Latino Outreach Program Director, www.lcv.org, on twitter: @LCVoters.