Win for wildlands! President Obama designates five new national monuments

Ute Mountain, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico
Adriel Heisey
The National Park system and our BLM monuments lands just got a little bigger. Americans will soon be able to enjoy five new national monuments in states from New Mexico to Washington.

The Wilderness Society applauds President Obama for the his designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico, plus four other cultural and natural landmarks across the United States on Monday.

Our newest national monuments include:

  • Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico
  • San Juan Islands National Monument, Washington State
  • Harriet Tubman National Monument, Maryland
  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Ohio
  • Delaware Historic Sites, Delaware


Help us say thanks to President Obama for protecting these new national monuments.

Rio Grande del Norte: What's protected

Rio Grande del Norte, a critical priority for The Wilderness Society, includes some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico. By using the Antiquities Act, President Obama is protecting:

  • roughly 240,000 acres of critical animal habitat
  • exceptional outdoor recreation areas
  • a vital source of water for New Mexico
  • Ute Mountain, which towers over the region and provides habitat for elk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and great horned owl, among other species.  

The new national monument will also protect the vast recreational opportunities enjoyed by many within the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau, such as hiking, biking, camping, rafting, hunting and fishing.

“Protecting our lands and waters can’t wait, and The Wilderness Society applauds President Obama for protecting the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and other significant landmarks across the United States,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “Protecting the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument demonstrates President Obama’s commitment to conservation, and we join the local community in thanking the President for this legacy for future generations to enjoy.”

recent survey found that 84 percent of New Mexico voters agree that public lands are an essential part of the state’s economy, and an economic study found that a national monument designation for northern New Mexico is estimated to fuel $15 million in new economic benefits, such as boosting tourism and supporting ongoing grazing.

Hispano leaders and organizations, small business owners and the Taos and Mora Valley Chambers of Commerce, sportsmen and ranchers, Native American Pueblos and elected officials, and conservation organizations came together to ask President Obama to permanently protect Rio Grande del Norte.  

Obama designated four other national monuments:

San Juan Islands: This national monument will protect roughly 1,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management Lands and 75 sites in Washington State. It will permanently protect important cultural places -- such as the lighthouse on Patos Island -- while also boosting tourism and helping the local economy.

Photo: San Juan Islands, Washington. Tom Reeve

  • Harriet Tubman: This national monument will protect several sites in Dorchester County, Maryland, including the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black farmer who helped Tubman rescue her brothers from slavery. The national monument designation is recognition of Harriet Tubman’s unparalleled contribution to our nation’s history.
  • Charles Young House: This  national monument in Xenia, Ohio, is the site of the family home of Col. Charles Young, who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to reach the rank of colonel; he also served as the first African American acting superintendent of a national park (Sequoia-Kings Canyon). The national monument recognizes and honors a significant part of African American and American military history.
  • Delaware Historic sites: This national monument will protect sites associated with the history of early Swedish, Dutch and English settlement in Delaware, while preserving the 1,100-acre Woodlawn tract as an urban green space. This designation also gives Delaware its first National Park Service unit, the last of the 50 states to get at least one NPS unit.

Check out this episode of "This American Land" featuring Rio Grande del Norte:


While legislation to protect Rio Grande del Norte and San Juan Islands was introduced during the 112th Congress, it stalled along with dozens of other conservation bills in the first Congress since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public land as a Park, National Monument or Wilderness Area.

Understanding that Congress is broken, The Wilderness Society is very pleased to see President Obama taking important steps toward putting conservation on equal ground with energy development. Please thank President Obama for this action.

Photo: White House

Presidential Proclamation, Establishment of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico. by The Wilderness Society

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