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
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.
America celebrates more than 100 national monuments, many of which were designated through the use of the 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.
Got a question about national monuments? We have some some great FAQs that can help.
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Find fact sheets, reports and other resources related to wilderness policy and conservation.
- Friday, May 26, 2017
Today, a coalition of conservation groups and others announced that a historic number of comments and petitions of support have been submitted to the Department of the Interior in support of Bears Ears National Monument. Despite the entirely inadequate 15-day period ending on May 26th provided for comments, more than 685,000 comments in support of Bears Ears National Monument have been collected.
- Thursday, May 25, 2017
The Wilderness Society can provide background, commentary and photos on the Trump administration review of Bears Ears and other national monuments across the country. Our experts can also offer regional insights and historical context regarding the use of the Antiquities Act to protect America’s natural, cultural and scientific treasures.
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- Tuesday, May 23, 2017
At a time when America’s parks and other public lands desperately need greater investments and protections, the proposed Trump budget represents a retreat from common sense. Thoughtless cuts proposed for federal land agencies fly in the face of the public’s love for shared national lands and waters.