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.

  • Emily Linroth

    Today, several measures aimed to roll back protections on our nation’s public lands were defeated in the Senate as part of the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. These amendments would have, among other effects, dismantled permanent protection for millions of acres of wilderness quality lands (S.A. 166) that await protection and weakened the Antiquities Act (S.A. 132), a law used by 16 presidents to protect places such as the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty. 

  • Michael Reinemer

    The agency rule was issued after a federal court ruled in 2013 that the Forest Service was in violation of an executive order on off-road vehicle management. The statement from The Wilderness Society follows:

  • Jennifer Dickson

    Despite major risks, obstacles and climate change concerns, the proposed plan would allow drilling for oil and gas in this remote, fragile and rapidly warming environment.

    The proposed Chukchi and Beaufort sea lease sales exclude relatively small areas where leasing would be prohibited.