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President Makes Monumental Decision > Page 1, 2

Proving the old adage that the pen (and the 1906 Antiquities Act) are mightier than the Republican sword, on January 11th of 2000, President Clinton created three new national monuments in Arizona and California and expanded another. In his proclamation, which was issued exactly 92 years to the day that President Teddy Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon as one of the first national monuments, Clinton stated, "Ten thousand or twenty thousand years from now, if the good Lord lets us all survive as a human race, no one will remember who set aside this land on this day. But the children will still enjoy it." 

Early last year, President Clinton had asked Secretary Babbitt to report on unique and fragile places that deserve protection as national monuments. Following the Secretary's recommendations, with the stroke of a pen the President created the 1500-square-mile Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, the 71,000 acre Agua Fria National Monument, the California Coastal National Monument, and expanded Pinnacles National Monument by 8,000 acres.

More than one million acres of cliffs and chasms comprise the new Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in NW Arizona
courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

 

The Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act states that a U.S. President is authorized to declare 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. Since its passage by Congress in 1906, the Act has been used by 14 out of 17 presidents (all except Nixon, Reagan, and Bush). Congress also has the power to declare national monuments, and has done so in 29 cases.

Of the 105 national monuments proclaimed under the Antiquities Act, 46 have been larger than 5,000 acres and 28 have been larger than 50,000 acres. National monuments are generally less regulated than national parks -- hunting and grazing are often allowed -- but it is not unusual for national monuments to eventually be re-designated as national parks. In fact, nearly 25% of the parks that comprise our National Park System were originally designated under the Antiquities Act, including the Grand Canyon, Arches, and Bryce Canyon. 

Over the years, significant uses of the Antiquities Act have included Teddy Roosevelt declaring 18 national monuments in 9 states and Jimmy Carter declaring 56 million acres in Alaska. The Act has sometimes caused controversy and been attacked by lawmakers. For example, since President Clinton designated 1.7 million acres for Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to place limits on the Antiquities Act. The establishment of Grand Canyon-Parashant, Agua Fria, and Coastal national monuments last week was met with delight by environmentalists but with dismay by Arizona Governor Jane Hull and much of her state's congressional delegation. They denounced the move as a land grab and argued that such designations should be made only through congressional action, in spite of the fact that the GOP stance was rejected by 80% of the people polled by the Arizona Republic.

Next page > Sizing Up The New Monuments  > Page 1, 2


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