Center for American Progress

The Agenda of the 118th Congress’ Antiparks Caucus

The Agenda of the 118th Congress’ Antiparks Caucus

A new CAP analysis identifies the latest congressional antiparks caucus and their wide targeted agenda to dismantle America’s most beloved public lands.

A view of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, with downtown Los Angeles visible in the background.
A view of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, with downtown Los Angeles visible in the background, April 2024. (Getty/Mario Tama)

Early in 2024, the Biden administration has already taken major conservation action: expanding two national monuments, finalizing rules to conserve 13 million acres in America’s Arctic, ensuring the oil and gas industry pays its fair share for public resources, and reversing outdated decision-making that favored dirty energy over conservation on public lands. These actions build on the historic conservation progress of the Biden administration, which has protected more than 41 million acres of public lands and waters and invested well over 18 billion dollars toward conservation projects across the nation. The protection of these public assets is wildly popular and highly bipartisan; nearly 80 percent of Americans support the conservation of public lands. Despite this widespread support, public lands across the country are increasingly under attack by extreme interests, including the extractive industry and their allies in Congress. This industry-driven wish list—which seeks to erase parks and prioritize profit over people on public lands—is cataloged in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025.

Project 2025 is an extremist, authoritarian playbook for a potential conservative administration to hit the ground running, attacking well-established rights and threatening democracy. It is not uniquely an anticonservation agenda, but attacks to public lands and waters are some of the many threats explicitly listed. In particular, Project 2025 calls for repealing the Antiquities Act of 1906—a bipartisan and popular tool to protect some of the country’s most iconic landscapes, many places of which are now National Parks. The playbook demands reviews of President Joe Biden’s national monument designations and all resource management plans finalized in the prior four years; advocates for increasing the number and frequency of onshore oil and gas lease sales; calls for undoing the popular America the Beautiful initiative; and seeks to expand oil and gas drilling in America’s Arctic.

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While Project 2025 includes an overt enumeration of the antiparks agenda, a new CAP analysis finds an insidious movement to erase parks and privatize public lands has been bubbling below the surface. Research shows that extreme members of the 118th congress are already using their powers to take directly parallel action to push antiparks legislation, overturn conservation rulemakings, attack presidential authority to protect public lands, attempt to roll back key safeguards to landscapes, and otherwise take actions that put industry profit over the public use of lands. This latest piece analyzes the 118th congressional session and traces these anticonservation policy attacks to a group of lawmakers that CAP has dubbed the antiparks caucus and their agenda.

Measures of the analysis

The congressional antiparks caucus is a small group of the most extreme members of Congress who have introduced more than one and/or co-sponsored three or more antiparks bills and/or signed onto a legal amicus brief that attempts to undermine presidential authority to protect public lands. This legal amicus brief came out of the bipartisan Congressional Western Caucus, but only extremely anticonservation members who have a track record of antiparks legislative action have signed. This brief is a clear litmus test of members whose actions would not only break down popular protections but would also strip a president of the long-standing authority to enact community-led conservation proposals. The antiparks caucus is not only introducing legislation to undermine National Parks: CAP’s research shows these members are also backing bills that undermine conservation across all public lands and waters in the country.

Defining antiparks legislation

Antiparks legislation includes any that seek to:

  • Overturn Biden-administration conservation actions or rules, such as the public lands rule
  • Seize and sell public lands
  • Weaken, dismantle, or undermine the Antiquities Act, including attempts to reverse monument designations
  • Expand drilling or mining on and beyond protected public lands, including attempting to reverse mineral withdrawals
  • Limit publicly available land for recreation or habitat conservation
  • Exclude the public from engaging in decision-making on land management
  • Attack protections of specific public lands, including the Arctic Refuge and Western Arctic
  • And more

The antiparks agenda

Congressional antiparks members are specifically leading and supporting legislation within select categories, all of which can be classified as antiparks legislation. These categories were established through a new CAP analysis, which classifies nearly 40 bills that make up the broader antiparks agenda. This agenda seeks to remove protections from the nation’s most special places; undermine public rights to clean air and water; subvert Tribal sovereignty on lands and waters; and erode the country’s long tradition of protecting public resources for future generations.

Attempts to erase parks

One of the most dangerous goals of the antiparks caucus is the effort to undermine the president’s authority to protect public lands and waters using the Antiquities Act. This popular, bipartisan tool has been used across decades and party lines to safeguard some of the country’s most iconic landscapes. Concerted efforts to attack public lands and waters by limiting presidential authority to protect them are a significant threat to conservation both now and in the future. Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Cliff Bentz (R-OR) rank among leaders of the antiparks caucus for introducing the legal amicus brief that specifically attempts to limit presidential national monument designations.

Additional legislation to target the Antiquities Act include Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) Northern Arizona Protection Act (H.R. 5635), which seeks to nullify the designation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni- Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-IA) Congressional Oversight of the Antiquities Act (H.R. 5499), which attempts to impose strict restrictions on the use of the Antiquities Act. This category of antiparks legislation poses particular harm because it often attacks both a special place and the administrative tool to protect it.

Overturning rulemakings that would prioritize people over polluters on public lands

The 118th Congress has made many efforts to overturn conservation rulemakings finalized by the Biden administration—rulemakings that have been long awaited and established with extensive environmental review and community consultation. These include antiparks caucus leader Rep. Pete Stauber’s (R-MN) Alaska’s Right to Produce Act (H.R. 6285), which reinstates illegally held oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge and targets protections of the Western Arctic, including more than 10 million acres of special areas that the Biden administration prohibited from oil and gas development; Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) and Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) companion bills in the House (H.R. 3397) and Senate (S. 1435), which target the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) conservation rulemaking; and Sen. Barrasso’s bill (S. 3929), which attacks protections to old growth forests. These each pose the unique harm of trying to perpetuate a limited authority of the president and trying to turn back rulemakings that advance conservation progress across the country.

Turning public lands and waters into wastelands for dirty energy development

This category of legislation is especially damning, as some members of Congress are captured by the extractive industries who profit from the exploitation of public lands. These bills aim to make it easier for dirty energy companies to develop public lands and waters—even those that are already protected—which is in the financial interests of the extractive industry and the members they fund. This category of legislation includes almost 15 bills that take aim at public lands by forcing the Department of the Interior to offer parcels for lease; forcing the Department of Energy to have a certain percentage of lands for oil and gas; expediting federal permitting review processes for drilling or mining projects; preventing public participation in drilling or mining project review; allowing oil and gas companies to skirt their decommissioning obligations; or opening more lands up to drilling. These actions are widely unpopular and any support is driven by industry dollars.

Some legislation in this category includes antiparks caucus leader Rep. Pete Stauber’s (R-MN) Permitting for Mining Needs Act of 2023 (H.R. 209), which attempts to limit judicial review of mining projects; Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) Promoting Effective Forest Management Act (S. 2867), which attempts to increase logging in national forests; and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Act (H.R. 6814), which seeks to allow oil and gas companies to avoid their decommissioning obligations in offshore drilling. Each piece of legislation in this category harms public lands and waters for the sole purpose of padding industry pockets.

Removing protections for special places

The antiparks caucus has made numerous attacks against already protected landscapes, including Rock Springs, Wyoming, where the BLM seeks to limit development on 1.6 million acres and increase the amount of land protected as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern; Chaco Canyon, where the Biden administration responded to local concerns and withdrew the 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park from mineral development in June 2023; and other areas that have been formally protected. These are attempts to reverse popular conservation measures, which were specifically advocated for by local communities and Tribes over the span of years. The types of protection being attacked within this category range from mineral withdrawals, to lease cancellations, to resource management plans. Each of these special places has unique biological, geological, archaeological, or cultural features that warrant their protection. The antiparks efforts to remove protections for special places sets a dangerous precedent that no important place—even a protected one—is truly ever off-limits to industrial development.

Attacks on landscapes protected for endangered species

Many bills led and supported by the 118th antiparks caucus specifically attack the Endangered Species Act (ESA); protections for endangered species; or lands safeguarded due to endangered species habitat, breeding, or migrating grounds. These bills in the house and senate include Senate Joint Resolutions 9 and 24—which use the Congressional Review Act to target lands protected for the lesser prairie-chicken and northern long-eared bat—and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ (R-WY) companion bills to limit interagency collaborative work to protect endangered species.

Undercutting enforcers of laws that protect communities’ clean air, water, and health

The congressional antiparks caucus has also loudly and notably worked to limit funding to the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and other related agencies. Without ample funding, these agencies cannot perform their duties to protect environmental resources for public availability and benefit and are limited in their ability to enforce safeguards that protect the public’s health and keep bad industry actors in line.


The congressional antiparks caucus agenda has play-by-play parallels to the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, demonstrating the risk of an all-of-government concerted mission to dismantle conservation as we know it. This risk is neither understated nor a figment of the future. The antiparks caucus is already hard at work to increase the reach of oil and gas, erase land and water protections, overturn critical conservation rulemakings, and far more. As the extreme antiparks agenda takes hold, it is crucial to highlight the pro-extractive industry intentions in order to push these ideas out of power. Conservation actions from the administration and Congress are overwhelmingly popular, historically bipartisan, and increasingly critical amidst the changing climate. Members of the antiparks caucus must be held accountable for acting in direct opposition to the perspectives, needs, and hopes of their constituents, including the public right to access protected nature, clean air and water, as well as important places for communities and cultures.


The author would like to thank Jenny Rowland-Shea, Nicole Gentile, Drew McConville, Alia Hidayat, Mariel, Lutz, Will Beaudouin, Bill Rapp, Keenan Alexander, Chester Hawkins, Mat Brady, Audrey Juarez, Lauren Vicary, Doug Molof, Jen Rokala, Aaron Weiss, Jordan Schreiber, Sarah Guy, Mary Olive, and the local and national conservation leaders who are building impactful and equitable conservation solutions every day.

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Sam Zeno

Policy Analyst, Conservation Policy

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