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 commends the Obama Administration for making history today by quadrupling the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, now the largest protected area in the world, measuring 582,578 square miles.

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will be a unit of the National Park Service and was announced on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which was established on August 25, 1916.

  • Max Greenberg

    The next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, meaning that Congress is running out of time to cobble together "must-pass" appropriations legislation that will pay for the day-to-day expenses of the federal government.

    But in what has become a sad annual commentary on some leaders' dereliction of America's conservation tradition, the process is gummed up with counterproductive “riders” that have no place in the appropriations process, and would hurt wildlands right when they sorely need our help.