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

    Strayed will receive the We Are the Wild Inspiration Award, which recognizes a person who embodies the spirit of wilderness and its transformative power.

    Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said, “In this 50th anniversary year of the Wilderness Act, we present this award to underscore the importance of inspiring people to discover and care for our wild lands. Today we honor Cheryl Strayed for her remarkable story and for inspiring new generations to experience wilderness, which forms the backbone of the American spirit.”

  • Michael Reinemer

    President Obama will use his executive authority to create the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, an action that will improve outdoor recreation, safeguard vital water supplies and protect wildlife in the backyard of Los Angeles – the nation’s most populous county.

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Wilderness Society applauds the Obama Administration for advancing bipartisan efforts to further protect ocean ecosystems and their scientific value by using the Antiquities Act to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, an undisturbed island and atoll chain located 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. The proclamation builds on the approximately 83,000 square-mile national monument initially designated by President George W. Bush in 2009.