The Antiquities Act and President Obama
America’s landscapes have become part of the very fabric of this country’s identity; they remind us of where we came from and show us who we can still become.
Possibly the most pivotal piece of conservation legislation ever passed, the Antiquities Act allows the President to directly preserve sites and landscapes of “historic and scientific interest” as national monuments. During his time in office, President Obama permanently protected over 550 million acres of these deserving lands and waters—more than any other president since the inception of the Antiquities Act a century ago.
Since its passage by a Republican-led Congress in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used 231 times—by both Republican and Democratic presidents alike—to protect iconic lands. Some of our most well-known and well-loved national parks—like Arches and the Grand Canyon—were first protected under the Antiquities Act as national monuments.
President Obama used the Antiquities Act to create or expand 34 national monuments—from Delaware to Utah to Hawaii—the highest number ever protected by any one president. For a list of all 34 monuments, please scroll to the final page.
Last summer, President Obama took time during his weekly radio address to speak to the vital role our protected lands and places play in affirming the American spirit, saying, “I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country.” Take a tour through the American story and President Obama’s monumental legacy as you click through below.
Explore our new national monuments:
President Obama created or expanded 34 national monuments using the Antiquities Act, a total of more than 550 million acres.
Click on a national monument for details:
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument spans the semi-arid plains of New Mexico’s Taos Plateau, rising to an elevation of over 10,000 feet at the peak of Ute Mountain—an extinct reminder of the area’s volcanic history—before plunging 800 feet down the Rio Grande Gorge to the river below. With 10,000 years of human history, the area was once home to prehistoric dwellers and early Spanish homesteaders. Today, the monument is an important wildlife corridor between northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, used seasonally by bald eagles and beloved by bird-watchers. The unique setting between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges provide an abundance of recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, rafting, and camping.
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument stretches from nearly sea level at the shores of Lake Berryessa up to 7,000 feet in the magnificent snow-capped mountains of the North Coast Range. Some of the mountains inside the monument were once Jurassic seamounts—volcanoes that rose up from the ocean floor over 150 million years ago. The region’s oak woodlands, chaparral hills, and fir stands support a wealth of wildlife including bald eagles, river otters, mountain lions, and mule deer. Native Americans first occupied the landscape 11,000 years ago and were later joined by Mexican and Spanish expeditions, fur trappers, and gold prospectors passing through the region.
Basin and Range National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument—a dramatic landscape of steep climbs followed by long, flat valleys formed by the slow stretching of the Earth’s crust—spans 704,000 acres of one of America’s most remote and undisturbed corners in southeastern Nevada. People first inhabited this unforgiving landscape 14,000 years ago. The area’s ancient rock art was joined in 1972 by Michael Heizer’s famous land art piece, The City, an architectural wonder roughly the size of Washington D.C.’s National Mall. With big game animals like bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, and pronghorn, Basin and Range is a haven for hunters, anglers, hikers, and climbers alike.
Browns Canyon National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument sits in south-central Colorado’s Arkansas Valley, spanning the river as the Arkansas descends from its headwaters in the Mosquito Range. With rugged granite cliffs, stunning views of some of Colorado’s tallest mountains, mountain lions, black bears, bighorn sheep, and coyotes, Browns Canyon is one of the state’s most emblematic landscapes. The tumbling waters of the Arkansas River were well-loved by whitewater rafters, kayakers, and anglers long before the monument designation. By protecting the canyon, President Obama has ensured that these spectacular recreational opportunities will exist long into the future.
Bears Ears National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument—named for its distinctive twin plateaus—is located in the southeastern corner of Utah, nestled between Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the Navajo Nation. The region’s nearby tribes led the way in protecting this spectacular landscape of steep cliffs and winding canyons. With a history of over 10,000 years of human inhabitation and stewardship, Bears Ears is a place of deep cultural and spiritual connection. Each of the nearby native languages has a phrase for the twin buttes themselves: Hoon'Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, and Bears Ears.
Cultural and Historical National Monuments
In his weekly radio address President Obama said, “I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us.” During his time in office, President Obama has taken significant strides to fill the representation gaps in the nation’s protected public lands.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland includes one of the first safe houses along the Underground Railroad and stands as a testament to Harriet Tubman herself, one of our nation’s great leaders in the fight for civil rights. New York City’s Stonewall National Monument is the first national monument to reflect the story and struggles of LGBTQ Americans working towards equality. In California, the César Chávez National Monument commemorates the extraordinary achievements made by César Chávez for the farm labor movement and honors the Latino leaders of tomorrow. And in our nation’s capitol, the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument celebrates the tireless work of suffragettes.
Oceanic National Monuments
Over the course of his presidency, Obama protected over 850,000 square miles of diverse oceanic habitat. By quadrupling the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (first protected by President George W. Bush in 2006) President Obama created the largest protected area on the planet—a marine reserve larger than all other national parks combined. In 2016, the president protected Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, the first marine national monument in the Atlantic. Within its boundaries lie three canyons reaching deeper than the Grand Canyon and four seamounts that are home to some of the world’s rarest underwater species.
While announcing Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, President Obama said, “The notion that the ocean I grew up with is not something I can pass on to my kids and my grand kids is unacceptable. It's unimaginable.” By protecting these marine landscapes, the president has taken significant steps towards improving ocean resilience in the face of a changing climate.
A list of all national monuments protected by President Obama
Here are the 34 national monuments protected or expanded by President Obama during his time in office. With the help of the Antiquities Act, there will be many more to come.
LANDSCAPE-SCALE NATIONAL MONUMENTS
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument,
Browns Canyon National Monument,
Castle Mountains National Monument,
Chimney Rock National Monument,
Fort Ord National Monument,
Gold Butte National Monument,
Mojave Trails National Monument,
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,
San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,
San Juan Islands National Monument,
Sand to Snow National Monument,
CULTURAL & HISTORIC NATIONAL MONUMENTS
Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument,
District of Columbia
César Chávez National Monument,
First State National Historical Park,
Fort Monroe National Monument,
Freedom Riders National Monument,
Honouliuli National Monument,
Pullman National Monument,
Reconstruction Era National Monument,
Stonewall National Monument,
OCEANIC NATIONAL MONUMENTS