Happy 110th anniversary to the Antiquities Act, protector of monuments for all

Sand to Snow National Monument (California) was designated under the Antiquities Act in 2016.

Credit: Mason Cummings.

June 8 marks 110 years since President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act to protect cultural and natural landmarks.

Early in 2016, the year of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary, anti-conservationists in Congress tried once again to undermine the Antiquities Act, which has been used by almost every president to protect treasured American lands as national monuments. The Antiquities Act’s anniversary is a great opportunity to reflect on the need to defend it. 

Passed in 1906, the Antiquities Act authorized all future presidents to protect historic landmarks or objects of “scientific interest” on public lands as national monuments. The bill grew out of a movement to preserve deteriorating archaeological resources, some of which had become targets of vandalism. 

The Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by nearly every presidents, serving as an important contingency plan for when Congress won’t act swiftly to protect public lands. President Barack Obama has used the law 22 times to create national monuments, including three new monuments in the California desert in 2016

Recent attempts by Congress would add arbitrary obstacles to the process of designating national monuments, effectively stranding land protection efforts right back where they started. This is completely out of step with the views of most Americans: A 2014 poll found that 90 percent of voters support presidential proposals to “permanently protect some public lands [like] monuments, wildlife refuge areas, wilderness” and 69 percent oppose efforts to “stop creation of new national parks, wilderness areas, and monuments.” 

Join us in looking back at just a few of the amazing places protected under the Antiquities Act, and ask Congress to make sure this great American law continues protecting places for future generations


Browns Canyon National Monument (Colorado)

Credit: Bob Wick (BLM), flickr.

Protected by: President Barack Obama (2015)

Browns Canyon National Monument encompasses a unique landscape along the east bank of the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida. Browns Canyon is the most popular whitewater rafting destination in the country, and also provides a slew of other year-round recreation opportunities. The stretch of the Arkansas River that includes Browns Canyon was awarded “Gold Medal” status for having the highest quality cold-water fish habitats accessible to the public. It’s also a great place for hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, birding, climbing and horseback riding.


Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Credit: Andrew Langdal, flickr.

Protected by: President Theodore Roosevelt (1908)

Arguably the single most famous piece of land in the United States, the Grand Canyon is fittingly also one of the first ever protected under the Antiquities Act. President Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon as a monument in 1908, years before it was turned into a national park. As he later wrote, "the Grand Canyon of Arizona fills me with awe … It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world." Millions of visitors come to Arizona each year to experience the simple truth of those words.


Denali National Park & Preserve (Alaska)

Credit: Cody Badger, flickr.

Protected by: President Jimmy Carter (1978)

Denali National Park & Preserve’s signature attraction is Mount Denali (or Mount McKinley), North America’s tallest peak (20,237 feet above sea level). The mountain enjoyed such prominence in Native Alaskan cultures that linguists have identified at least eight different names for it, and it is counted by some as the world’s third-tallest mountain. About one-third of the modern park is designated wilderness, boasting some of the clearest and cleanest skies in the U.S. and wildlife ranging from Dall sheep to caribou to grizzly bears.


Muir Woods National Monument (California)

Credit: Justin Kern, flickr.

Protected by: President Theodore Roosevelt (1908)

One of the first places protected under the Antiquities Act—and by the man who signed the act into law, to boot—Muir Woods National Monument is named for the famous Scottish lover of the American outdoors, John Muir. Natural attractions in this wooded paradise just miles from San Francisco include majestic redwoods—the monument’s signature feature—great horned owls and numerous bat species. In 1945, Muir Woods hosted a memorial service for President Franklin Roosevelt that was attended by delegates representing 46 different nations.


Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

Credit: NPS, flickr.

Protected by: President Herbert Hoover (1932)

Sand deposits of the Rio Grande have sculpted the tallest dunes in North America in Great Sand Dunes National Park, some reaching 750 feet in height. These, as well as surrounding grasslands, wetlands, alpine lakes, high mountains and ancient forests make this park one of the most picturesque and biologically diverse in the U.S. Great Sand Dunes National Park is a major hiking, camping and horseback riding destination, and seasonal Medano Creek offers beach activities like wading and tubing in the spring.


Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Oregon)

Credit: BLM, flickr.

Protected by: President Bill Clinton (2000)

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was “the first monument set aside solely for the preservation of biodiversity” but it also boasts great outdoor recreation opportunities, including a portion of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. A large section of the monument’s southern end is protected as the picturesque Soda Mountain Wilderness, which contains habitat for elk, cougars, black bears and more.


Death Valley National Park (California/Nevada)

Credit: Howard Ignatius, flickr.

Protected by: President Herbert Hoover (1933)

More than 90 percent of Death Valley National Park is designated as wilderness, providing homes for kit foxes, desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The area is especially renowned for its wide variety of birds, partly owing to a great diversity of habitat, and draws birders year-round. Other popular visitor activities in this vast expanse of desert and mountains include hiking, camping and stargazing—Death Valley National Park is an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for peeking at faraway galaxies.


Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

Credit: Andrew Mace, flickr.

Protected by: President Calvin Coolidge (1929)

This stretch of mixed-grass prairie is renowned for its unusual topography of buttes, canyons, cliffs and rocky pinnacles. However, it is far from a barren wasteland; some of America’s most iconic wildlife species call Badlands home, including bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, golden eagles and prairie dogs. This area of southwestern South Dakota is also known for a legacy of fossil-hunting. Every year, about 892,000 people visit, spending more than $53 million to support almost 800 jobs.


Zion National Park (Utah)

Credit: Christopher Michel, flickr.

Protected by: President William Taft (1909)

Originally protected as a national monument by President Taft and later expanded by Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Zion National Park is a geological masterpiece with high plateaus, towering cliffs and a labyrinth of sandstone canyons. Massive rock is shaped by the rare desert waters of the Virgin River, which carves a green ribbon of diverse plants and animals through the canyon oasis. Zion National Park also contains hundreds of wildlife species including American icons like mule deer, bald eagles and peregrine falcons.


Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico)

Credit: Lisa Phillips (BLM), flickr.

Protected by: President Barack Obama (2014)

Near Las Cruces, New Mexico, the stretch of iconic land that encompasses Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument abounds with dramatic mountain peaks, colorful plants, sprightly antelope and majestic birds of prey. This area in Doña Ana County has long been prized for its rugged landscape, historical and archaeological sites and pockets of solitude, spread across thousands of acres encompassing the Organ, Sierra de las Uvas, Dona Ana and Potrillo Mountain Complexes. The region is considered a crown jewel of the southern Rockies and a great recreational destination as well.


Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (Hawaii)

Credit: B. Flint (USFWS), flickr.

Protected by: President George W. Bush (2009)

President Bush originally protected Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in 2009 along with two other marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean. In 2014, President Obama expanded it, protecting areas that are vital habitat for sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, tropical fish, birds and a recently discovered species of beaked whale, and contain stretches of jungle-like coral thousands of years old.


Browns Canyon National Monument (Colorado)

Credit: Bob Wick (BLM), flickr.

Protected by: President Barack Obama (2015)

Browns Canyon National Monument encompasses a unique landscape along the east bank of the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida. Browns Canyon is the most popular whitewater rafting destination in the country, and also provides a slew of other year-round recreation opportunities. The stretch of the Arkansas River that includes Browns Canyon was awarded “Gold Medal” status for having the highest quality cold-water fish habitats accessible to the public. It’s also a great place for hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, birding, climbing and horseback riding.


Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Credit: Andrew Langdal, flickr.

Protected by: President Theodore Roosevelt (1908)

Arguably the single most famous piece of land in the United States, the Grand Canyon is fittingly also one of the first ever protected under the Antiquities Act. President Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon as a monument in 1908, years before it was turned into a national park. As he later wrote, "the Grand Canyon of Arizona fills me with awe … It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world." Millions of visitors come to Arizona each year to experience the simple truth of those words.


Denali National Park & Preserve (Alaska)

Credit: Cody Badger, flickr.

Protected by: President Jimmy Carter (1978)

Denali National Park & Preserve’s signature attraction is Mount Denali (or Mount McKinley), North America’s tallest peak (20,237 feet above sea level). The mountain enjoyed such prominence in Native Alaskan cultures that linguists have identified at least eight different names for it, and it is counted by some as the world’s third-tallest mountain. About one-third of the modern park is designated wilderness, boasting some of the clearest and cleanest skies in the U.S. and wildlife ranging from Dall sheep to caribou to grizzly bears.


Muir Woods National Monument (California)

Credit: Justin Kern, flickr.

Protected by: President Theodore Roosevelt (1908)

One of the first places protected under the Antiquities Act—and by the man who signed the act into law, to boot—Muir Woods National Monument is named for the famous Scottish lover of the American outdoors, John Muir. Natural attractions in this wooded paradise just miles from San Francisco include majestic redwoods—the monument’s signature feature—great horned owls and numerous bat species. In 1945, Muir Woods hosted a memorial service for President Franklin Roosevelt that was attended by delegates representing 46 different nations.


Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

Credit: NPS, flickr.

Protected by: President Herbert Hoover (1932)

Sand deposits of the Rio Grande have sculpted the tallest dunes in North America in Great Sand Dunes National Park, some reaching 750 feet in height. These, as well as surrounding grasslands, wetlands, alpine lakes, high mountains and ancient forests make this park one of the most picturesque and biologically diverse in the U.S. Great Sand Dunes National Park is a major hiking, camping and horseback riding destination, and seasonal Medano Creek offers beach activities like wading and tubing in the spring.


Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Oregon)

Credit: BLM, flickr.

Protected by: President Bill Clinton (2000)

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was “the first monument set aside solely for the preservation of biodiversity” but it also boasts great outdoor recreation opportunities, including a portion of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. A large section of the monument’s southern end is protected as the picturesque Soda Mountain Wilderness, which contains habitat for elk, cougars, black bears and more.


Death Valley National Park (California/Nevada)

Credit: Howard Ignatius, flickr.

Protected by: President Herbert Hoover (1933)

More than 90 percent of Death Valley National Park is designated as wilderness, providing homes for kit foxes, desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The area is especially renowned for its wide variety of birds, partly owing to a great diversity of habitat, and draws birders year-round. Other popular visitor activities in this vast expanse of desert and mountains include hiking, camping and stargazing—Death Valley National Park is an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for peeking at faraway galaxies.


Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

Credit: Andrew Mace, flickr.

Protected by: President Calvin Coolidge (1929)

This stretch of mixed-grass prairie is renowned for its unusual topography of buttes, canyons, cliffs and rocky pinnacles. However, it is far from a barren wasteland; some of America’s most iconic wildlife species call Badlands home, including bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, golden eagles and prairie dogs. This area of southwestern South Dakota is also known for a legacy of fossil-hunting. Every year, about 892,000 people visit, spending more than $53 million to support almost 800 jobs.


Zion National Park (Utah)

Credit: Christopher Michel, flickr.

Protected by: President William Taft (1909)

Originally protected as a national monument by President Taft and later expanded by Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Zion National Park is a geological masterpiece with high plateaus, towering cliffs and a labyrinth of sandstone canyons. Massive rock is shaped by the rare desert waters of the Virgin River, which carves a green ribbon of diverse plants and animals through the canyon oasis. Zion National Park also contains hundreds of wildlife species including American icons like mule deer, bald eagles and peregrine falcons.


Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (New Mexico)

Credit: Lisa Phillips (BLM), flickr.

Protected by: President Barack Obama (2014)

Near Las Cruces, New Mexico, the stretch of iconic land that encompasses Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument abounds with dramatic mountain peaks, colorful plants, sprightly antelope and majestic birds of prey. This area in Doña Ana County has long been prized for its rugged landscape, historical and archaeological sites and pockets of solitude, spread across thousands of acres encompassing the Organ, Sierra de las Uvas, Dona Ana and Potrillo Mountain Complexes. The region is considered a crown jewel of the southern Rockies and a great recreational destination as well.


Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (Hawaii)

Credit: B. Flint (USFWS), flickr.

Protected by: President George W. Bush (2009)

President Bush originally protected Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in 2009 along with two other marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean. In 2014, President Obama expanded it, protecting areas that are vital habitat for sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, tropical fish, birds and a recently discovered species of beaked whale, and contain stretches of jungle-like coral thousands of years old.

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