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.

  • Michael Reinemer

    “The Wilderness Society applauds the actions by Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall to introduce and guide the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act forward,“ said Michael Casaus, New Mexico Director with The Wilderness Society in Albuquerque. “Designating these two unique areas contained within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument as official wilderness ensures these wild and diverse landscapes that are so important to local communities receive the government’s highest level of protection.”

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Wilderness Society released the following statement regarding passage of Rep. Mike Simpson’s bill to protect the Boulder-White Cloud mountains out of the U.S. House of Representatives:

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Wilderness Society applauds progress toward reauthorization of the nation’s most important conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a 50-year-old law that has invested in parks, trails, historic sites, and ball fields in virtually every county in the U.S.