The Antiquities Act of 1906 (Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 59–209, 34 Stat. 225, 54 U.S.C. §§ 320301320303) is an act that was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906. This law gives the president of the United States the authority to, by presidential proclamation, create national monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. The Act has been used more than a hundred times since its enactment.

Antiquities Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn act for the preservation of American antiquities.
Enacted bythe 59th United States Congress
EffectiveJune 8, 1906
Public lawPub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 59–209
Statutes at Large34 Stat. 225
U.S.C. sections created
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 11016 by John F. Lacey (RIA) on January 9, 1906
  • Committee consideration by Public Lands
  • Passed the House on June 5, 1906 
  • Passed the Senate on June 7, 1906  with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on June 8, 1906 ()
  • Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906
United States Supreme Court cases
Devils Tower, the first national monument

History edit

The Antiquities Act was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt during his second term in office. The act resulted from concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts—collectively termed "antiquities"—on federal lands in the West, such as at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Removal of artifacts from these lands by private collectors, "pot hunters," had become a serious problem by the end of the 19th century. In 1902, Iowa Congressman John F. Lacey, who chaired the House Committee on the Public Lands, traveled to the Southwest with the rising anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett, to see for himself the extent of the pot hunters' impact. His findings, supported by an exhaustive report by Hewett to Congress detailing the archaeological resources of the region, provided the necessary impetus for the passage of the legislation.[1]

The Act failed to deter purposeful, criminal looting at these protected sites and was deemed too vague, resulting in passage of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.[2] The Antiquities Act has been praised by several groups for its ability to protect important sites, including The Wilderness Society,[3] the National Parks Conservation Association,[4] The Pew Charitable Trusts,[5] and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[6]

Since the Antiquities Act became law, all but three presidents, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, have chosen to enlarge or dedicate new national monuments.[7] President Obama established more monuments than any president, with 29 in total.[8] The previous record was held by President Clinton with 19 monuments. President Carter dedicated the most acreage to national monuments, mostly in areas in Alaska.[9]

On April 26, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13792 directing a review of the law and its uses.[10]

Uses edit

The Act was intended to allow the president to set aside certain valuable public natural areas as park and conservation land. The 1906 act stated that it was intended for: "... the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest." These areas are given the title of "national monuments." It also allows the president to reserve or accept private lands for that purpose. The aim is to protect all historic and prehistoric sites on United States federal lands and to prohibit excavation or destruction of these antiquities. With this act, this can be done much more quickly than going through the Congressional process of creating a national park. The Act states that areas of the monuments are to be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld presidential proclamations under the Antiquities Act, ruling each time that the Act gives the president nearly-unfettered discretion as to the nature of the object to be protected and the size of the area reserved.[11][12]

Some areas designated as national monuments have later been converted into national parks, or incorporated into existing national parks. 28 of the 63 national parks include areas originally designated as national monuments.[13]

The first use of the Act protected a large geographic feature – President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower National Monument on September 24, 1906.[14] President Roosevelt also used it to create the Grand Canyon National Monument (now Grand Canyon National Park).

At 583,000 square miles (1,510,000 km2), Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the largest protected area proclaimed.[15] George W. Bush signed proclamation Proclamation 8031 to establish the monument on June 15, 2006.

The smallest, Father Millet Cross National Monument (now part of a state park), was a mere 0.0074 acres (30 m2).[16]

For any excavation, the Act requires that a permit (Antiquities Permit) be obtained from the Secretary of the department which has jurisdiction over those lands.

Reduction of powers edit

Presidential powers under the Act have been reduced twice. The first time followed the controversial proclamation of Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943. The 1950 law that incorporated Jackson Hole into an enlarged Grand Teton National Park also amended the Antiquities Act, requiring Congressional consent for any future creation or enlargement of National Monuments in Wyoming.[17]

The second time followed Jimmy Carter's use of the Act to create 56 million acres (230,000 km2) of national monuments in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requires Congressional ratification of the use of the Antiquities Act in Alaska for withdrawals of greater than 5,000 acres (20 km2).[18]

The Trump administration, conducted a review of 27 major designations to consider changes[19] and Trump subsequently significantly reduced the size of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument in Utah in 2017.[20] The legality of these actions was challenged in federal court, and President Biden restored the original areas in 2021. Although some presidents have chosen to ignore the tradition of preservation of notable environmental or historic areas, no president to date has entirely undone a predecessor's monument.[20]

Several Supreme Court cases have upheld the president's ability to proclaim large areas under the Act. The first was a unanimous decision in 1920 that upheld the creation of Grand Canyon National Monument.[21]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Ken Burns. The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Florentine Films.
  2. ^ "NPS Archeology Program: Antiquities Act of 1906". Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  3. ^ "Antiquities Act | The Wilderness Society". Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  4. ^ "Monuments Protected Under the Antiquities Act". National Parks Conservation Association. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  5. ^ Gilroy, John (June 7, 2018). "After 112 Years, Antiquities Act Remains Vital". Pew Charitable Trusts. Archived from the original on June 10, 2018. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  6. ^ "Antiquities Act | National Trust for Historic Preservation". Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  7. ^ "National Monuments and the Antiquities Act" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. January 2, 2024.
  8. ^ Adams, Cydney (January 10, 2017). "29 breathtaking photos of President Obama's national monuments". CBS News.
  9. ^ "National Monuments Designated by Presidents 1906-2009" (PDF). National Park Service.
  10. ^ Merica, Dan (April 25, 2017). "Trump order could roll back public lands protections from 3 presidents". CNN. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  11. ^ Cameron v. United States, 252 U.S. 450
  12. ^ Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128
  13. ^ "National Monument Facts and Figures - Archeology (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved March 12, 2023.
  14. ^ "Devils Tower First 50 Years" (PDF). National Park Service. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  15. ^ Papahānaumokuākea protects submerged land. The largest surface reservation was the proclamation of Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument, 10,950,000 acres (40,000 km2).
  16. ^ "Antiquites Act: Monument List". National Park Service Archeology Program. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2009. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help).
  17. ^ Robert W. Righter. "National Monuments to National Parks: The Use of the Antiquities Act of 1906". Archived from the original on May 27, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2006.
  18. ^ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980". Archived from the original on June 26, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2006.
  19. ^ Donald Trump (April 26, 2018). Executive Order 13792: Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act (Report). pp. 20429–20431. Retrieved January 6, 2018. the Secretary shall consider: (i) the requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act's requirement that reservations of land not exceed 'the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected';
  20. ^ a b Vig, Norman; Kraft, Michael (2017). Environmental Policy New Direction for the Twenty-First Century. Sage. pp. 106–107.
  21. ^ "SUPREME COURT: Chief Justice Roberts invites Antiquities Act challenges". Retrieved May 1, 2021.

Further reading edit

  • Brinkley, Douglas. Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt: w and the Crusade for America (HarperCollins, 2009).
  • McManamon, Francis P. "The Antiquities Act and How Theodore Roosevelt Shaped It." The George Wright Forum 31#3 (2014) online.
  • Norris, Frank. "The Antiquities Act and the acreage debate." The George Wright Forum 23#3 (2006). online
  • Ranchod, Sanjay. "The Clinton National Monuments: Protecting Ecosystems with the Antiquities Act." Harvard Environmental Law Review 25 (2001): 535+. online
  • Righter, Robert W. "National monuments to national parks: The use of the Antiquities Act of 1906." Western Historical Quarterly 20.3 (1989): 281–301. online

External links edit