Monument Designation

National monuments make up some of America’s most celebrated icons, from California's Giant Sequoia National Monument to New York's Statue of Liberty.

With the stroke of a pen, the president of the United States can protect natural, historical and cultural wonders by designating them as national monuments. The president can do this by using the Antiquities Act, a law enacted by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Perhaps one of the greatest powers bestowed up the president of the United States is the ability to protect America’s treasures by using the Antiquities Act. Sixteen presidents — from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama — have used the Antiquities Act to protect places big and small across the United States. 

National monument designation is a form of protection most like a National Conservation Area (NCA). National monuments are flexible designations that allow for a true conservation balance between development and the need to protect our most treasured places for our children and grandchildren.

Photo: Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, N.M., by BLM New Mexico

How we designate national monuments

National monuments can either be established by Congress though legislation or by the president of the United States through the use of the Antiquities Act.

Sometimes when the wheels of Congress move too slowly, or there is extreme partisan gridlock, the use of the Antiquities Act is welcomed, especially when cries for protection on the ground have hit a brick wall in Congress.

Existing monuments

America celebrates more than 100 national monuments, many of which were designated through the use of the Antiquities Act.

Antiquities Act

Some of our most beloved places are here today thanks to the Antiquities Act. This popular law is used by the president to designate national monuments. Since its enactment in 1906, the majority of U.S. presidents have used it. The Antiquities Act has protected well known places like the Grand Canyon, which was a national monument before it gained national park status, and lesser known places, like the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Monument designation FAQs

Got a question about national monuments? We have some some great FAQs that can help.

  • Alex Thompson

    Today, the House Natural Resources Committee will begin marking up the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2017 (H.R. 825).

    The bipartisan legislation would create priority areas for renewable energy development on public lands, ensuring more certainty and efficiency for projects, while limiting environmental and community impacts. The bill would also create a conservation fund to reinvest revenue from renewable energy projects back into affected communities, as well as into fish and wildlife habitat conservation and recreation on public lands.

  • Michael Reinemer

    Statement on Interior Department recommendation on Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, July 21, 2017

    The following statement is from Scott Miller, Southwest Senior Regional Director for the Wilderness Society:

  • Tim Woody

    By passing H.R. 218 today, the U.S. House of Representatives set a dangerous precedent, approving construction of a destructive, unnecessary road through protected wilderness in the vital Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in the Alaska Peninsula.  

    This bill undermines bedrock conservation laws including the 1964 Wilderness Act, which prevents road building in designated wilderness, and the National Environmental Policy Act, which guarantees a process for environmental review of federal decisions, including participation by citizens and other stakeholders.