Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wants to abuse the law that allows President Obama to block off large sections of land, the leader of a western group said Friday.

Reid promised on the Senate floor Thursday morning to work with Obama to protect the Gold Butte area of Nevada by declaring it a national monument. Reid pointed out vandalism to petroglyphs that are thousands of years old and Joshua trees that were chopped down, saying the area deserves to be protected.

Reid said he wants Obama to use the Antiquities Act to protect the area.

"Because of this legislation ... I'm going to reach out to the White House," Reid said. "And there's no guarantee we'll get it done. We'll see if President Obama will protect this area. He has the authority, as any president does, to stop this sort of destruction and stop it now."

However, Brenda Richards, president of the conservative Public Lands Council, which represents ranchers in the West, said Reid is calling for Obama to abuse his power to declare national monuments.

The Antiquities Act gives the president the unilateral ability to declare swaths of land national monuments, but western conservatives have taken issue with how Obama has used the rule.

While there is broad agreement that the proper use of the law is to protect natural areas, conservatives accuse the Obama administration of using it to make huge areas unavailable for mining and drilling. Many argue that the Antiquities Act harms local communities by limiting their economic options and making them almost completely dependent on tourism.

Richards said Reid's comments showed a disdain for rural residents who depend on the land.

"This is further illustration that the Antiquities Act — originally intended to protect artifacts and American Indian ruins — has been weaponized by the administration to punish rural communities," Richards said.

"Senator Reid is out of line. Instead of engaging local communities and advocating for appropriate economic and environmental review, he is asking the president to make a unilateral, punitive decision in order to settle a political score. This is precisely why the Antiquities Act is in dire need of reform."