This week President Barack Obama designated five new national monuments. National monuments are protected areas similar to national parks. While national parks are created by Congress, national monuments can be created by Presidential proclamation. In general, national monuments receive less funding than national parks and they provide fewer protections to wildlife. While some national monuments are managed by the National Park Services, others are managed by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 provides the President with the power to proclaim national monuments. The first national monument created by Presidential proclamation was Devils Tower in Wyoming which was created by President Theodore Roosevelt.
According to a 2006 National Parks and Conservation Association study circulated by the White House, each federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public. The five new national monuments are listed below.
Rio Grande del Norte:
This new national monument is located in Taos and Rio Arriba counties in New Mexico. It is a mecca for outdoor recreation: hiking, camping, kayaking, rock climbing, rafting, fishing. The area also has some of the best deer, elk, and antelope hunting in North America.
The creation of this national monument has the support of community leaders, local residents, and veterans. Taos County Commissioner Larry Sanchez, a member of the Vet Voice Foundation's New Mexico Steering Committee:
"With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, our Veterans need these lands to find a place to recuperate and find peace. I want President Obama to know the intrinsic value these lands hold to America's heroes."Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument:
For many years, members of Maryland’s congressional delegation have sought to approve funding to honor Harriet Tubman who was born into slavery, escaped, and helped other slaves to freedom. The monument designation coincides with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Tubman's death. According to the National Parks Conservation Association:
“Harriet Tubman remains one of America’s most beloved and respected icons, but little is publicly shared about the courage and conviction she had for her people and her country that made her such a legend.”First State National Monument:
The creation of the First State National Monument was supported by the Delaware congressional delegation. More than a century ago, William Poole Bancroft purchased land just north of downtown Wilmington with the idea of preserving an urban oasis in the Brandywine Creek corridor. Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association:
“The monument also commemorates the legacy and perseverance of early Dutch, Swedish, and English settlement in Delaware, a vital but little known aspect of our First State’s rich history.”San Juan Islands:
President Obama designated 955 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in the San Juan Islands as a National Monument. The lands include cultural sites used by American Indian tribes for thousands of years. According to Senator Maria Cantwell:
“Today’s designation marks the culmination of years of citizen driven efforts to protect their cherished public lands.”The national monument designation was promoted by San Juan businesses, conservationists and local county commissioners. Only a few Tea Party types opposed it.
According to the Presidential Proclamation:
“The lands on Patos Island, Stuart Island, Lopez Island and neighboring islands constitute some of the most scientifically interesting lands in the San Juan Islands. These lands contain a dramatic and unusual diversity of habitats with forests, woodlands, bluffs, inter-tidal areas, and sandy beaches.”Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument:
When Charles Young became the acting national park superintendent of Sequoia National Park in 1903 he became the first African American to serve as a national park superintendent. He was born into slavery, later becoming the third African American to graduate from West Point. He rose to become the highest-ranking African-American officer in the U.S. Army. After serving in the Ninth U.S. Cavalry, the War Department in 1894 assigned him to serve as a professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He also served as an instructor of French, Chemistry, Descriptive Geography, and Geology.
He died in 1922 in Lagos, Nigeria at the age of 58 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is in Ohio.