The Monumental Legacy of the Antiquities Act of 1906
84 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2007
The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President of the United States "to declare by public proclamation, historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon [federal] lands . . . to be national monuments . . . " The law was passed during the Theodore Roosevelt administration, and Roosevelt quickly set about designating a wide range of lands and resources as national monuments, including notably, the 800,000 acre Grand Canyon National Monument. Roosevelt's expansive interpretation of the law was embraced by later presidents and ultimately by the Supreme Court. In the latter part of the 20th century the use the law waxed and waned, reaching new heights with President Carter's spectacular designation of 56 million acres of land in Alaska as National Monuments, then falling dormant, only to become resurgent again at the end of President Clinton's first term with the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the designation of 21 new or expanded monuments in Clinton's second term. This article traces the history of the Antiquities Act and its remarkable legacy. It describes the many special places that have received protection under the law, and the many controversies that the law has sparked. It also addresses the myriad legal and policy issues raised by the law and its evolution as a conservation management tool. Finally, the article discusses proposals for reforming the Antiquities Act, ultimately concluding that the law should remain just as it is.
Keywords: national monuments, natural resources, national parks, Antiquities Act
JEL Classification: K19, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation