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National Monument Proclamations under the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 resulted from concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts-collectively termed "antiquities "-on federal lands in the West. It authorized permits for legitimate archeological investigations and penalties for persons taking or destroying antiquities without permission. And it authorized presidents to proclaim "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as national monuments-"the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected."

This is an image of Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming with the NPS entrance sign
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.

So it was originally expected 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, Wyoming, the first national monument three months later. Among the next three monuments he proclaimed in 1906 was Petrified Forest, Arizona, another natural feature.

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 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. Katmai was later enlarged to nearly 2.8 million acres 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 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 doing so barred further use of the proclamation authority in Wyoming.

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 & 0 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 after Congress had adjourned without passing a major Alaska lands bill 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.

Grosvenor Arch at Grand Staircase National Monument
This is an image of Grosvenor Arch at Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument. Photo courtesy of Jerry Sintz, 1996.

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 have been enacted.

Presidents have used the Antiquities Act's proclamation authority not just to create new national monuments but to enlarge existing ones. A few examples: 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.

Have national monuments always been "confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected"? While this might be debated, it seldom has been. Even when large areas have been proclaimed national monuments, there has been little argument that more land was included than necessary to protect the features involved. A greater argument might be made that the framers of the act did not intend "objects of scientific interest" to apply to very large natural areas. Yet several such areas were proclaimed national monuments, and despite occasional objections they were generally allowed to stand as such. With a few exceptions, presidential exercise of the national monument proclamation authority seems not to have conflicted seriously with contemporary congressional and public expectations.

The following is a list of all national monuments proclaimed by presidents under authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. Presidential additions to preexisting national monuments and national monuments authorized or established directly by Congress are not included. Proclaimed national monuments retaining this designation in 1999 are marked with an asterisk; with three exceptions (Admiralty Island, Misty Fjords, Grand Stai rc ase-Escal ante), all are administered by the National Park Service. Most of the others have been incorporated in national parks or other national park system areas by Congress; two (Becharof and Yukon Flats) were proclaimed and remain under Fish and Wildlife Service jurisdiction; and ten (Lewis and Clark Cavern, Wheeler, Shoshone Cavern, Papago Saguaro, Old Kasaan, Verendrye, Fossil Cycad, Castle Pinckney, Father Millet Cross, Holy Cross) were transferred from the NPS to other federal, state, or local jurisdictions by Congress.


Theodore Roosevelt
9/24/06 Devils Tower, WY*
12/8/06 El Morro, NM*
12/8/06 Montezuma Castle, AZ*
12/8/06 Petrified Forest, AZ
3/11/07 Chaco Canyon, NM
5/6/07 Cinder Cone, CA
5/6/07 Lassen Peak, CA
11/16/07 Gila Cliff Dwellings, NM*
12/19/07 Tonto, AZ*
1/9/08 Muir Woods, CA*
1/11/08 Grand Canyon, AZ
1/16/08 Pinnacles, CA*
2/7/08 Jewel Cave, SD*
4/16/08 Natural Bridges, UT*
5/11/08 Lewis and Clark Cavern, MT
9/15/08 Tumacacori, AZ
12/7/08 Wheeler, CO
3/2/09 Mount Olympus, WA

William Howard Taft
3/20/09 Navajo, AZ*
7/12/09 Oregon Caves, OR*
7/31/09 Mukuntuweap, UT
9/21/09 Shoshone Cavern, WY
11/1/09 Gran Quivira (now Salinas Pueblo Missions), NM*
3/23/10 Sitka, AK
5/30/10 Rainbow Bridge, UT*
6/23/10 Big Hole Battlefield, MT
5/24/11 Colorado, CO*
7/6/11 Devils Postpile, CA*

Woodrow Wilson
10/14/13 Cabrillo, CA*
1/31/14 Papago Saguaro, AZ
10/4/15 Dinosaur, UT-CO*
11/30/15 Walnut Canyon, AZ*
2/11/16 Bandelier, NM*
7/8/16 Sieur de Monts, ME
8/9/16 Capulin Mountain (now Capulin Volcano), NM*
10/25/16 Old Kasaan, AK
6/29/17 Verendrye, ND
3/18/18 Zion, UT (incorporated Mukuntuweap NM)
8/3/18 Casa Grande (now Casa Grande Ruins), AZ*
9/24/18 Katmai, AK
12/12/19 Scotts Bluff, NE*
12/12/19 Yucca House, CO*

Warren G. Harding
1/24/22 Lehman Caves, NV
10/14/22 Timpanogos Cave, UT*
10/21/22 Fossil Cycad, SD
1/24/23 Aztec Ruin (now Aztec Ruins), NM*
3/2/23 Hovenweep, UT-CO*
3/2/23 Mound City Group, OH
5/31/23 Pipe Spring, AZ*
6/8/23 Bryce Canyon, UT

Calvin Coolidge
10/25/23 Carlsbad Cave, NM
4/18/24 Chiricahua, AZ*
5/2/24 Craters of the Moon, ID*
10/15/24 Castle Pinckney, SC
10/15/24 Fort Marion (now Castillo de San Marcos), FL*
10/15/24 Fort Matanzas, FL*
10/15/24 Fort Pulaski, GA*
10/15/24 Statue of Liberty, NY*
12/9/24 Wupatki, AZ*
2/26/25 Glacier Bay, AK
2/26/25 Meriwether Lewis, TN
9/5/25 Father Millet Cross, NY
11/21/25 Lava Beds, CA*

Herbert Hoover
4/12/29 Arches, UT
5/11/29 Holy Cross, CO
5/26/30 Sunset Crater (now Sunset Crater Volcano), AZ*
3/17/32 Great Sand Dunes, CO*
12/22/32 Grand Canyon, AZ
1/18/33 White Sands, NM*
2/11/33 Death Valley, CA-NV
3/1/33 Saguaro, AZ
3/3/33 Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

Franklin D. Roosevelt
4/26/33 Channel Islands, CA
8/22/33 Cedar Breaks, UT*
1/4/35 Fort Jefferson, FL
8/10/36 Joshua Tree, CA
1/22/37 Zion, UT
4/13/37 Organ Pipe Cactus, AZ*
8/2/37 Capitol Reef, UT
7/16/38 Fort Laramie, WY
5/17/39 Santa Rosa Island, FL
7/24/39 Tuzigoot, AZ*
3/15/43 Jackson Hole, WY

Harry S. Truman
10/25/49 Effigy Mounds, IA*

Dwight D. Eisenhower
7/14/56 Edison Laboratory, NJ
1/18/61 Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, MD-WV

John F. Kennedy
5/11/61 Russell Cave, AL*
12/28/61 Buck Island Reef, VI*

Lyndon B. Johnson
1/20/69 Marble Canyon, AZ

Jimmy Carter
12/1/78 Admiralty Island, AK* (Forest Service)
12/1/78 Aniakchak, AK*
12/1/78 Becharof, AK
12/1/78 Bering Land Bridge, AK
12/1/78 Cape Krusenstern, AK*
12/1/78 Denali, AK
12/1/78 Gates of the Arctic, AK
12/1/78 Kenai Fjords, AK
12/1/78 Kobuk Valley, AK
12/1/78 Lake Clark, AK
12/1/78 Misty Fjords, AK* (Forest Service)
12/1/78 Noatak, AK
12/1/78 Wrangell-St. Elias, AK
12/1/78 Yukon-Charley, AK
12/1/78 Yukon Flats, AK

William J. Clinton
9/18/96 Grand Staircase-Escalante, UT* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/11/00 Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, AZ* (Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management)
1/11/00 Agua Fria National Monument, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/11/00 California Coastal National Monument, CA* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/10/00 Pinnacles National monument, CA (Expansion)
4/15/00 Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA (Expansion--USDA Forest Service)
6/09/00 Hanford Reach, WA (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
6/09/00 Ironwood Forest, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
6/09/00 Canyons of the Ancients, CO* (Bureau of Land Management)
6/09/00 Cascade-Siskiyou, OR* (Bureau of Land Management)
7/07/00 President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument (Armed Forces Retirement Home)
11/9/00 Craters of the Moon, ID* (Expansion of Existing Monument)
11/9/00 Vermillion Cliffs, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Carrizo Plain, CA* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Minidoka Internment, ID
1/17/01 Pompeys Piller, MT* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Sonoran Desert National Monument, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Virgin Islands Coral Reef, VI
1/20/01 Governors Island-Castle Williams and Fort Jay, NY

George W. Bush
02/27/06 African Burial Ground National Monument, NY
06/15/06 Papahanaumokuakea Hawaii Islands Marine National Monument. HI
12/05/08 World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (Incorporated USS Arizona Memorial), HI

Need more information about National Monuments and the Bureau of Land Management? Visit the BLM National Monument Web Page.

For more information about National Monuments and the Antiquities Act of 1906 visit the following web sites:

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