America’s public lands contain an amazing array of unique and irreplaceable natural, cultural, and historic national treasures. In 1906 Congress passed the Antiquities Act to preserve these treasures and their place in our shared natural and cultural history. Since then, the designation of national monuments through the Antiquities Act has been a cornerstone of conservation in America and one of the most important tools available to the President.
The Antiquities Act allows the president to protect and conserve lands and waters already owned by the American people. For over 100 years, 15 presidents of both parties have used the Act to preserve national icons as varied and as significant as the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon.
Monument designations provide balanced conservation that accounts for the interests of people and the environment alike. Each monument is slightly different, but all allow for a broad variety of uses. As a result, national monuments tend to create positive economic benefits for local communities. The recreational opportunities and the improved quality of life that monuments provide draw residents and tourists alike. Protected lands, like national monuments, help grow local economies while maintaining our natural heritage.
Learn more about a few of the many places worthy of becoming our next national monument:
OTERO MESA, NEW MEXICO
Otero Mesa is the largest and wildest grassland left on public lands in the United States. In fact, over 500,000 acres of Otero Mesa qualify for Wilderness designation, making it one of New Mexico’s most treasured landscapes.
The region hosts tens of thousands of archeological sites, which date back over 1,500 years. Unfortunately rare earth mineral mining threatens this wonderful place and the more than 1,000 different types of native wildlife it supports.
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OWYHEE CANYONLANDS, OREGON
Located in the southeast corner of Oregon, Owyhee Canyonlands are one of the most remote and beautiful places in the country. The whitewater of the Owyhee River system draws river runners from across the U.S. and the secluded canyons provide homes for some of the nation’s largest herds of bighorn sheep, as well as 6,000 pronghorn antelope, seven species of bats, sage grouse, song birds, and more.
Despite its importance as one of the largest intact desert systems in the West, the Owyhee Canyonlands remain one of the least protected areas in the continental United States.
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GRAND CANYON WATERSHED, ARIZONA
Extending north of Grand Canyon National Park and bordering the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, the Grand Canyon Watershed region offers easily accessible, quiet recreation opportunities complimenting Grand Canyon National Park’s unspoiled wilderness.
Its old-growth forests -- the most intact, and largely unprotected old-growth forest in the Southwest -- and unique wildlife, including the Kaibab squirrel and the endangered California Condor, draw outdoor lovers from near and far.
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GREATER CANYONLANDS, UTAH
With mesas that rise 7,000 feet in the air and canyons that drop to 3,700 the area surrounding Canyonlands National Park is rugged and arid. Some places can only be accessed by the Colorado and Green Rivers.
This wild place provides home to the last remaining bighorn sheep and the endangered Mexican grey wolf. Protecting the Greater Canyonlands would unite scattered protected areas, creating a first-of-its-kind wild pathway stretching from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone.