What happens if a national monument is revoked?

The Trump administration has been hinting at revoking the Monument status of Katahdin Woods and Waters, and Gov. Lepage is encouraging him, much to the dismay of his constituents.
If he actually does do it, what happens to the land? Who takes ownership of it? This land was donated by a philanthropist, who purchased it for the express purpose of giving it to the federal government for use as a national park. Will she at least get the land back?

This newspaper article linky refers to a 1938 opinion by the Attorney General that one President can’t revoke a national monument created by another President, but also notes that no court case has addressed the authority to do so because no President has (yet) tried to revoke a national monument designation.

I smell lawsuit!

We don’t know because it hasn’t happened before, but given Trump’s record with the courts I doubt he will win… but you never know.

Somehow I think that the current Attorney General, Jeff ‘Howdy Doody’ Sessions, might have a different opinion. Since there is no governing law and even a Republican dominated Congress can’t seem to agree enough to even pass a law against purple Skittles, the challenge would have to go to the Supreme Court, in which case Ruth Bader Ginsberg would have to show off her new parkour moves, flinging herself over the bench and swinging her gavel like a pint-sized Asgardian at the proponents. It’ll be pretty exciting even by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission standards.


Keep in mind that land designated as a national monument must already be federal land. Assuming Trump’s desire meets a legal challenge, the land loses its designated status, but remains federal land. There may be covenants when the land was acquired if the previous private owner (if there was one) may be able to then lay claim to the land.

In the case in my OP, Roxanne Quimby donated the land in Maine on August 23, 2016. The following day, President Obama signed an executive order declaring the land as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
I have no idea if there were any covenants allowing her to reclaim the land if the monument was revoked.

The Washington Post went a step further in their story by considering the changes to the laws made in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. The committee report about the act stated “would also specifically reserve to the Congress the authority to modify and revoke withdrawals for national monuments created under the Antiquities Act.” The article also links to the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association site where they posted the legal analysis they have already gotten from their counsel. That seems likely to end up in court with a very weak case if Trump tries to do it under executive power alone.

Which isn’t a complete analysis of whether it could happen or what happens. He could simply make a recommendation to Congress for revocation. The answer becomes remarkably broad in that case. It’s the legislative branch exercising their explicitly enumerated powers under the Constitution.

As Duckster alluded to, it would revert to being just Federal lands, without the monument status attached to it. Monuments are typically protected lands, but there are plenty of Federal lands that can be leased for various purposes, including commercial use. As an example most of the ski resorts in Colorado are on Federal lands that are leased to various companies for tourism and skiing.

This depends on how the land is designated … from the DoJ website:

Near as I can tell, the Bears Ears NM had been BLM and NFS managed land before the designation … if the designation is repealed then the land still belongs to the Federal Government … however, in the OP’s case the land was in private hands and was donated under the condition the land be designated as a NM … if the designation is repealed then wouldn’t the land revert back to the original owners?

I guess we’ll have to wait until SCOTUS makes a ruling …