December 3, 2021

Congressional Research Service: National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Not just in Maine, but other places around the nation, it is felt by some that the authority given to a sitting president to designate lands “quickly” to “protect them” has been abused. For readers interested, perhaps a reading of this report will help to gain some understanding of what National Monument designation was and is intended to do. I took the liberty to highlight, in the below Summary, some of the prerequisite considerations a president should consider before acting. Please follow this link to read the entire report. – 15 pages. Also, you can read a copy of the Antiquities Act of 1906, including the most recent amendments by following the link.


The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to create national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. The President is to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The act was designed to protect federal lands and resources quickly, and Presidents have proclaimed about 130 monuments. Congress has modified many of these proclamations and has abolished some monuments. Congress also has created monuments under its own authority.

Presidential establishment of monuments sometimes has been contentious—for example, President Franklin Roosevelt’s creation of the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming (1943); President Carter’s massive Alaskan withdrawals (1978); and President Clinton’s establishment of 19 monuments and enlargement of three others (1996-2001). The Obama Administration’s consideration of areas for possible monument designation has renewed controversy over the Antiquities Act.

Issues have included the size of the areas and types of resources protected; the effects of monument designation on land uses; the level and types of threats to the areas; the inclusion of nonfederal lands within monument boundaries; the act’s limited process compared with the public participation and environmental review aspects of other laws; and the agency managing the monument.

Opponents have sought to revoke or limit the President’s authority to proclaim monuments. Congress is currently considering proposals to preclude the President from unilaterally creating monuments in particular states, and to impose environmental studies and public input procedures, among other changes. Monument supporters favor the act in its present form, asserting that the public and the courts have upheld monument designations and that many past designations that initially were controversial have come to be supported. They contend that the President needs continued authority to promptly protect valuable resources on federal lands that may be threatened.