The Heated Debate Over National Monuments

Federal Land vs Total State Land - USGSAThere are 124 protected areas in the United States known as National Monuments. The President of the United States can establish National Monuments by presidential proclamation and the United States Congress can do so by legislation.

The President's authority arises from the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the President to proclaim "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as National Monuments. Concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts—collectively termed antiquities—on western federal lands prompted the legislation. Its purpose was to allow the president to quickly preserve public land without waiting for legislation to pass through an unconcerned Congress. The ultimate goal was to protect all historic and prehistoric sites on U.S. federal lands.

Dividing The Country With A Federal Fault Line

What’s referred to as the Federal Fault Line will give you the perspective of just how much land is controlled the federal government and not by the states or prFederal Fault Lineivate sector. The line it’s self run from the east border of New Mexico north to the Canadian border segmenting country where you’ll find the western half states with less than 50% of state controlled land compared to the eastern half state with more than 95% of state controlled land. The Federal Fault Line clearly depicts how the west has been lost.

There are 24 National Park Service (NPS) units in Arizona including three National Parks (Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Saguaro), plus another four National Monuments administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). National Forests cover 15% of Arizona. Today Arizona faces Travel Management Plans which simply put are road closures, restricted access, camping and non-motorized big game retrieval. As forest planning continues to more forward the threat of more wilderness designations certainly is not out of the question and this is true of Western States in general.

Where Are The National Monuments

Proposed Wildlife CorridorsNational monuments are located in 31 states as well as in the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Minor Outlying Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  Arizona, with 18, has the largest number of national monuments, followed by California with 15 and New Mexico with 14. At least 65 national monuments protect places of natural significance, including 12 geological sites, seven marine sites, and five volcanic sites. Twenty-three national monuments have major sites associated with Native Americans. Thirty are other historical sites, including twelve forts. Many former national monuments have been re-designated as national parks or another status by Congress or the President, while others have been transferred to state control or disbanded.

Today, the western states face yet another federal threat as 44th President leaves the presidency as more National Monuments designations are perpetuated against the desires of the outdoors users groups.  The lead is by the envirolitigants to manage public or federal lands by restriction with a total disregard for the multi-use of the lands overall. The West may have been won by federal protection but it is being lost by federal overreach, threatening three more major National Monuments in AZ, including The Grand Canyon, and one in southern Utah, known as Bears Ears.

The Expansion of the National Park System

The Obama Legacy of Monument DesignationsWe all can thank President Theodore Roosevelt for having the foresight to create and designate our first national park in 1906, Devils Tower in Wyoming. Roosevelt went on to establish a total of eighteen national monuments during his presidency, although only nine still retain that designation. Sixteen Presidents have created national monuments since the program began and only Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush did not.  Bill Clinton created nineteen (19) and expanded three (3) others. Jimmy Carter protected vast parts of Alaska, proclaiming fifteen (15) national monuments, some of which later were promoted to national parks. President Barack Obama has created or expanded 23 national monuments, the most of any president, with over 4 plus million acres of public land protected.

What is the Antiquities Act of 1906

Devils Tower, the 1st National Monument Protected by the Antiquities ActThe Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906. This law gives the President of the United States the authority to, by presidential proclamation, create national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. The Act has been used over a hundred times since its passage and continues to be used by the 44th President.

Antiquities Act 1906:

1.    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.

2.    That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected: Provided, That when such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bonafied unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.

3.    That permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands under their respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and War to institutions which the may deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation, or gathering, subject to such rules and regulation as they may prescribe: Provided, That the examinations, excavations, and gatherings are undertaken for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, with a view to increasing the knowledge of such objects, and that the gatherings shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums.
4.    That the Secretaries of the Departments aforesaid shall make and publish from time to time uniform rules and regulations for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act.

The Most Prolific Abuse By Presidents Of The Antiquities Act

Jimmy Carter: 56 Million acres, 17 Designations

Bill Clinton: 5.7 million acres, 22 Designations

Barack Obama: 4 + million acres, 23 designations (with more to come by end of 2016.

Early 2106 National Monuments in the California desert: Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument.  These designations encompass nearly 1.8 million acres, essentially doubling the number of acres of public lands he has “protected” during his time in office and solidifying his place as the most prolific Land Grabber in US history.

Reference Links

List of National Monuments