The Antiquities Act: even more relevant 116 years later

Jun 9, 2022

Wednesday marked the 116th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, one of the most important conservation laws in American history. Today, just as when Teddy Roosevelt signed the law in 1906, a dysfunctional Congress has left sensitive public lands at risk of development, which is why Congress gave the president the authority to declare new national monuments.

As CWP’s Kate Groetzinger points out, the logging industry and local politicians threw a fit when Roosevelt designated Olympic National Monument in 1909. Today the monument, now a national park, brings in over three million visitors a year, supports 3,000 jobs, and contributes over $300 million to the state’s economy every year. Similar stories have played out from the Grand Canyon to Alaska.

Using presidential power to protect national monuments has taken on new urgency in light of the intertwined climate and biodiversity crises. President Biden recognized the need for bold action in his America the Beautiful plan when he set a goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. But he has yet to use the most powerful tool at his disposal—the Antiquities Act—to designate a new national monument.

On the anniversary, supporters of two proposed monuments, Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada, and Castner Range in Texas, reminded President Biden of his pledge and urged him to use the Antiquities Act, just as Teddy Roosevelt intended.

New Mexico steps up with 54,000-acre protection

Tribes and conservation groups have partnered with state and federal officials to open up public access to 54,000 acres of land west of Albuquerque. The purchase includes two adjoining properties near Mount Taylor, a site that is sacred to several New Mexico tribes and Pueblos. Over the next five years, the land will be transferred to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for management.

“Prior to becoming privately owned, the area in and around the L Bar ranch was used by the Pueblo for traditional cultural and ceremonial purposes,” said Acoma Pueblo Governor Randall Vicente. “Pilgrimage trails are still evident along with geographic line of sight connections to the Sandia and Manzano mountains. The Pueblo is hopeful that once the purchase is completed an ethnographic study can be conducted to identify areas, locations, and sites of cultural significance.”

Quick hits

BLM, Forest Service back Grand Canyon uranium mining ban

E&E News | KNAU

NM state land acquisition brings sacred sites out of private ownership

Albuquerque Journal | New Mexico Political Report

Alaska Native tribe nominates Pribilof Islands as national marine sanctuary

Associated Press

Nebraska’s ‘canal to nowhere’ would siphon water from Colorado

High Country News

Opinion: Why is almost no one planning for a future without the Colorado River?

Arizona Republic

Damage estimates climb from massive New Mexico wildifre

Albuquerque Journal

Indigenous farmer seeks solutions in drought-plagued Oregon

Associated Press

Opinion: It’s time to hold oil and gas companies accountable on public lands

Colorado Newsline

Quote of the day

“Every single technology that’s ever existed started as unaffordable, got adopted, and became more affordable. So it’s my job as an investor now to find the companies that will give you these technologies to buy. And then it’s your job as a person who can afford to buy it, to buy it. And that’s how we drive real change.”

—Molly Wood, venture capital managing partner and former journalist, Arizona Republic

Picture this

A rainbow heart held above two hands in a forest


Public lands are for everyone. We welcome recreationists and visitors from all backgrounds to our national forests and grasslands. #pridemonth2022

Featured image: Moon House in Bears Ears National Monument, BLM/Flickr