U.S. National Monument

From New World Encyclopedia
Devils Tower, the first national monument in the United States.

A United States National Monument is a protected area that is similar to a U.S. national park with the exception that the President of the United States can quickly declare an area of the United States to be a national monument without Congressional approval. National monuments receive less funding and afford fewer protections to wildlife than national parks do.

Another difference between a national monument and national park is the amount of diversity in what is being protected; national monuments aim to preserve at least one unique resource but do not have the diversity of a national park (which are designed to protect a host of unique features). However areas within, and extending beyond, national parks, monuments or even national forests can be part of wilderness areas, which have an even greater degree of protection than a national park would alone, although wilderness areas managed by the USDA Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management often allow hunting.

National monuments are managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or by the Bureau of Land Management.

The power to grant national monuments comes from the Antiquities Act of 1906. President Theodore Roosevelt used the act to declare Devils Tower in Wyoming the first U.S. national monument. His action was prompted by his fear that Congress' pace was slow enough to allow ruination of the site before it could come under the protection of the national park system.

Unique and diverse national monuments, such as the natural Muir Woods National Monument of California or the cultural remains of the ancient Pueblo Peoples at Wupatki National Monument of Arizona, are sources of inspiration. The United States is replete with such treasures, and understands the value of passing such a legacy on to future generations.


Birth of Antiquities Act

Navajo National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument

The Antiquities Act of 1906, officially An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities (16 USC 431-433), is an act passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, giving the President of the United States authority to restrict the use of particular public land owned by the federal government by executive order, bypassing Congressional oversight.

The Antiquities Act resulted from concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric American Indian ruins and artifacts—collectively termed "antiquities"—on federal lands in the West, such as at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Removal of artifacts from these lands by private collectors—"pot hunters," in the language of the time—had become a serious problem by the end of the nineteenth century. In 1902, Iowa Congressman John F. Lacey, who chaired the House Committee on the Public Lands, traveled to the Southwest with the rising anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett, to see for himself the extent of the pot hunters' impact. His findings, supported by an exhaustive report by Hewett to Congress detailing the archaeological resources of the region, provided the necessary impetus for the passage of the legislation.

The Act was intended to allow the President to set aside certain valuable public natural areas as park and conservation land ("National Monuments"). It also allows him to reserve or accept private lands for that purpose. The intention is to protect all historic and prehistoric sites on United States federal lands and to prohibit excavation or destruction of these antiquities. With this act, this can be done much more quickly than going though the Congressional process of creating a National Park. The Act states that areas of the monuments are to be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

Some areas designated as National Monuments have later been converted into National Parks, or incorporated into existing National Parks. Used over one hundred times since its passage, the Antiquities Act has often created significant controversy.

Creation of monuments

The original expectation was that national monuments would be proclaimed to protect prehistoric cultural features or antiquities and that they would be small. Yet, the reference in the act to "objects of … scientific interest" enabled President Theodore Roosevelt to make a natural geological feature, Devils Tower in Wyoming, the first national monument three months later. Among the next three monuments he proclaimed, in 1906, was Petrified Forest in Arizona, another natural feature which was later converted to a national park.

The expectation that national monuments would be small was also soon overcome. In 1908, Roosevelt again used the act to proclaim more than 800,000 acres (3,200 km²) of the Grand Canyon as a national monument—a very big "object of scientific interest." And in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Katmai National Monument in Alaska, comprising more than a million acres (4,000 km²). Katmai was later enlarged to nearly 2.8 million acres (11,000 km²) by subsequent Antiquities Act proclamations and for many years was the largest national park system unit. Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and Katmai were among the many national monuments later converted to national parks by Congress.

There was no significant Congressional opposition to this expansive use of the Antiquities Act in Arizona and Alaska—perhaps in part because Arizona and Alaska were then only territories without representation in Congress. Substantial opposition did not materialize until 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming. He did this to accept a donation of lands acquired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for addition to Grand Teton National Park after Congress had declined to authorize this park expansion. Roosevelt's proclamation unleashed a storm of criticism about the use of the Antiquities Act to circumvent Congress. A bill abolishing Jackson Hole National Monument passed Congress but was vetoed by Roosevelt, and Congressional and court challenges to the proclamation authority were mounted. In 1950, Congress finally incorporated most of the monument into Grand Teton National Park, but the act of doing so barred further use of the proclamation authority in Wyoming.

Frank ("Boss") Pinkley, Supt. of the Southwestern National Monuments, 1934

Since 1943, the proclamation authority has been used very sparingly, and seldom without advance Congressional consultation and support. In 1949, for example, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed Effigy Mounds National Monument to accept a donation of the land from the state of Iowa, at the request of Iowa's delegation. On those rare occasions when the proclamation authority was used in seeming defiance of local and congressional sentiment, Congress again retaliated. Just before he left office in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Monument after Congress had declined to act on related national historical park legislation. The chairman of the House Interior Committee, Wayne Aspinall of Colorado, responded by blocking action on subsequent C&O Canal Park bills to the end of that decade.

The most substantial use of the proclamation authority came in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed 15 new national monuments in Alaska. He did this after Congress had adjourned without passing a major Alaska lands-bill which was strongly opposed in that state. Congress passed a revised version of the bill in 1980, incorporating most of these national monuments into national parks and preserves, but the act also curtailed further use of the proclamation authority in Alaska.

The proclamation authority was not used again anywhere until 1996, when President Bill Clinton proclaimed the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. This action was widely unpopular in Utah, and bills were introduced to further restrict the president's authority. To date, none of them has been enacted. Most of the 16 national monuments created by President Clinton are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, not by the National Park Service. The ones managed by the Park Service are Governors Island National Monument, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, and Minidoka Internment National Monument.

George W. Bush proclaimed two very different monuments in 2006, the hundredth anniversary of the Antiquities Act. African Burial Ground National Monument is a tiny archaeological site in New York City. Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument protects roughly 140,000 square miles (36,000 km²) of the Pacific Ocean—larger than all of America's national parks combined. It is the largest marine reserve on earth.[1]

Presidents have used the Antiquities Act's proclamation authority not only to create new national monuments but to enlarge existing ones. For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt significantly enlarged Dinosaur National Monument in 1938, Lyndon B. Johnson added Ellis Island to Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, and Jimmy Carter made major additions to Glacier Bay and Katmai National Monuments in 1978.

List of National Monuments of the United States

This is a list of all the National Monuments in the United States. National Monuments are managed by four U.S. Government agencies; the National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Note that National Monuments in multiple agencies appear under each agency and are noted.

National Park Service

There are 57 National Monuments in the NPS system with a total area of 2,157,574 acres (8,731.4 km²),[2] with a total of 93 monuments between the departments.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
Ojibwe Wigwam at Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota
Name Location Date
African Burial Ground New York 2006
Agate Fossil Beds Nebraska 1997
Alibates Flint Quarries Texas 1965
Aniakchak Alaska 1978
Aztec Ruins New Mexico 1923
Bandelier New Mexico 1916
Booker T. Washington Virginia 1956
Buck Island Reef Virgin Islands 1961
Cabrillo California 1913
Canyon de Chelly Arizona 1931
Cape Krusenstern Alaska 1978
Capulin Volcano New Mexico 1916
Casa Grande Ruins Arizona 1889
Castillo de San Marcos Florida 1924
Castle Clinton New York 1946
Cedar Breaks Utah 1933
Chiricahua Arizona 1924
Colorado Colorado 1911
Craters of the Moon Idaho 1924
Devils Postpile California 1911
Devils Tower Wyoming 1906
Dinosaur Utah 1915
Effigy Mounds Iowa 1949
El Malpais New Mexico 1987
El Morro New Mexico 1906
Ellis Island New Jersey 1924
Florissant Fossil Beds Colorado 1969
Fort Frederica Georgia 1936
Fort Matanzas Florida 1924
Fort McHenry Maryland 1925
Fort Moultrie South Carolina 1948
Fort Pulaski Georgia 1924
Fort Stanwix New York 1935
Fort Sumter South Carolina 1948
Fort Union New Mexico 1956
Fossil Butte Wyoming 1972
George Washington Birthplace Virginia 1930
George Washington Carver Missouri 1943
Gila Cliff Dwellings New Mexico 1907
Governors Island New York 2001
Grand Canyon-Parashant Nevada 2000
Grand Portage Minnesota 1960
Hagerman Fossil Beds Idaho 1988
Hohokam Pima Arizona 1972
Homestead Nebraska 1936
Hovenweep Colorado 1923
Jewel Cave South Dakota 1908
John Day Fossil Beds Oregon 1974
Lava Beds California 1925
Little Bighorn Battlefield Montana 1879
Minidoka Internment Idaho 2001
Montezuma Castle Arizona 1906
Muir Woods California 1908
Natural Bridges Utah 1908
Navajo Arizona 1909
Newberry Volcanic Oregon 1990
Ocmulgee Georgia 1936
Oregon Caves Oregon 1909
Organ Pipe Cactus Arizona 1937
Petroglyph New Mexico 1990
Pinnacles California 1908
Pipe Spring Arizona 1923
Pipestone Minnesota 1937
Poverty Point Louisiana 1988
Rainbow Bridge Arizona 1910
Russell Cave Alabama 1961
Salinas Pueblo Missions New Mexico 1909
Scotts Bluff Nebraska 1919
Statue of Liberty New Jersey 1924
Sunset Crater Volcano Arizona 1930
Timpanogos Cave Utah 1922
Tonto Arizona 1907
Tuzigoot Arizona 1939
Virgin Islands Coral Reef Virgin Islands 2001
Walnut Canyon Arizona 1915
White Sands New Mexico 1933
Wupatki Arizona 1924
Yucca House Colorado 1919

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—Hawaii (Jointly with FWS)

Armed Forces Retirement Home

  • President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument—District of Columbia (managed by the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Bureau of Land Management


  1. Joshua Reichert and Theodore Roosevelt IV, Treasure Islands. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  2. The New York Times 2007 Almanac (New York: Penguin Reference, 2007). ISBN 0143038206

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