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.

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.

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Wilderness Society praises Congress for passing the Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act (H.R. 356 / S. 27). The legislation provides for the exchange of roughly 20,000 acres of Utah’s mineral rights from ecologically and culturally sensitive lands in the Desolation Canyon region of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation for federal mineral rights in another part of the reservation.

  • Michael Reinemer

    The draft House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill released today is a clear improvement from previous years, though it still misses the mark on several key conservation, climate and public lands needs and is laden with numerous policy provisions or “riders” that have no place in the appropriations process.

  • Michael Reinemer

    On Wednesday, The Wilderness Society presented lifetime conservation achievement awards to Representatives George Miller, Jim Moran and Rush Holt, who collectively represent 80 years of support for conservation of some of America’s most stunning landscapes and protection of the country’s clean air and water.  All three members of Congress have announced their plans to retire at the end of the current session.

    Rep. George Miller (California – 11th District)