Despite over 100 years of bipartisanship and a general sense of national pride for all protected public lands, they are now in danger of being stripped of their national protection or reduced in size. Below are some tips and resources about how to help keep your land public and protected.
America is a land of great natural beauty. From the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, the United States holds vast areas and waterways featuring many different climates; from arctic cold regions to sub-tropical – from rainforest to desert. In addition, America’s public lands protect delicate ecosystems, creating sanctuaries for plants, insects, and wildlife, some of which can only be found within these locations. Many of these lands protect dinosaur fossils, ancient hieroglyphics and the ruins of indigenous people long disappeared from the area, providing a wealth of specimens for archeological and anthropological study.
As a young country, America has survived many challenges for freedom and independence. Many early Americans worked tirelessly settling the new frontier while making great sacrifices to ensure that the dream of religious and personal freedom would be in place for many generations to come.
Areas such as the National Monuments preserve America’s rich historical heritage. Homesteads and memorials are an important reminder of the struggle and courage of the early settlers. While the ancient pueblo ruins preserve a rich heritage of America’s origin. A trip to a National Monument is a great way to spend the day with your children, teaching them in an experiential way about the women and men that helped shape America’s history.
In our fast-paced digital world, an escape to the beauty of nature is becoming more important than ever. Since the 2016 presidential election, there has been much controversy, including illegal proclamations, attempting to reduce or remove some of these protected public lands.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows presidents to create national monuments but not diminish them. Only Congress can remove a national monuments protection.
When a public land is no longer nationally protected, it is often given back to the state to protect and maintain. The result is an extremely high chance that the land will be sold into the public sector, and more often than not, this results in land development.
There are currently 27 national monuments under threat:
Click an image to read more about each location.
PAPAHANAUMOKUAKEA MARINE – Created June 15, 2006 by President Bush in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii and enlarged Aug. 26, 2016 by President Obama 583,000 square miles. It is the largest protected area on Earth. A fourth of the 7,000 species of marine animals and seabirds that live in the monument are not found anywhere else. This includes the last of the Hawaiian monk seals, as well as blue whales and short-tailed albatrosses. PHOTOGRAPH BY SAUL LOEB, AFP, GETTY
CRATERS OF THE MOON – Created May 2, 1924, by President Coolidge in central Idaho at 54,000 acres. The monument was enlarged slightly by President Kennedy in 1962, then dramatically expanded to 738,000 acres by President Clinton Nov. 9, 2000. It encompasses a dramatic moonscape of 60 lava beds and 25 cinder cones. The most distinctive formation is a 65-mile-long fissure known as the Great Rift. In 1970, Congress set aside 43,243 acres as a national wilderness, then in 2002, to appease objections from cattlemen, redesignated Clinton’s expansion as a national preserve. In March, the Idaho Senate passed a resolution expressing support for Congress to designate the original 54,000 acres as a national park. Idaho is the only western state lacking a national park. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL MELFORD, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
KATAHDIN WOODS AND WATERS – Created Aug. 24, 2016 by President Obama in north central Maine. It encompasses 87,500 acres of streams, rivers and woods and features views of Mount Katahdin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The monument lies within a larger landscape that public and private campaigns have worked to preserve for a century. PHOTOGRAPH BY CRAIG DILGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, REDUX
CASCADE-SISKIYOU – Created June 9, 2000, by President Clinton in southwest Oregon and northwest California. Set in the Cascade Range, the fir forests and wildflower-filled meadows are part of the first monument ever set aside for the preservation of biodiversity. At 100,000 acres, it contains a wide variety of species in a relatively geographically small area of 100,000 acres, including the threatened spotted owl, the pileated woodpecker and the pygmy nuthatch. PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA FARLOW, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
SAND TO SNOW – Created February 12, 2016 by President Obama in Southern California. It includes 154,000 acres, stretching from the Sonoran Desert floor to San Gorgonio Mountain, elevation 11,500 feet. The monument protects more than 240 species of birds and 12 threatened or endangered animals and provides a recreational haven for more than 24 million people. More than 100,000 acres of the monument had earlier been designated wilderness by Congress. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY BOB WICK, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
BERRYESSA SNOW MOUNTAIN – Created July 10, 2015 by President Obama in northern California. It stretches over 331,000 acres from ocean beaches to the 7,000-foot mountains of the Inner Coast Range. The monument connects three wilderness areas, preserves ancient Native American settlement sites, and provides habitat for one of California’s largest wintering populations of bald eagles. PHOTOGRAPH BY ALLEN J. SCHABEN, LOS ANGELES TIMES VIA GETTY
PACIFIC REMOTE ISLANDS MARINE – Created January 6, 2009, by President Bush and enlarged September 25, 2014, by President Obama in the central Pacific Ocean. It encompasses 490,000 square miles that includes Wake, Baker, Howland, and Jarvis islands; Johnston and Palmyra atolls; and Kingman Reef. It is one of the world’s largest marine conservation areas and considered one of the last refuges for a host of fish and marine mammals including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, pearl oysters, giant clams, sharks, parrotfishes and large grouper. PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN SKERRY, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
RIO GRANDE DEL NORTE – Created March 25, 2013 by President Obama in northern New Mexico. The monument’s 242,500 acres includes 10,000-foot volcanic mountains, grasslands, and deep river gorges. It is home to abundant collections of tribal artifacts, the Taos Plateau, a center for geologic and volcanic research, and a major migratory bird flyway for Canada geese, hummingbirds, sandhill cranes, herons, and avocets. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL MELFORD, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
GOLD BUTTE – Created Dec. 28, 2016 by President Obama in southeast Nevada. This 296,940-acre landscape of dramatic red sandstone formations fills the gap between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Virgin Mountains, and creates a continuous wildlife corridor for large animals, including bighorn sheep and mountain lions. The monument also provides habitat for numerous small animals, amphibians and reptiles, including the endangered Mojave desert tortoise and relict leopard frog, once considered extinct. PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE FREY, GETTY IMAGES
NORTHEAST CANYONS AND SEAMOUNTS MARINE – Created Sept. 15, 2016 by President Obama in the Atlantic Ocean, 150 miles off the southern coast of New England. It encompasses 4,913 square miles along the continental shelf and beyond. The monument contains extinct undersea volcanoes and canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. Canyon walls are covered with deep-water corals, anemones and sponges. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and sperm, fin and sei whales are among the marine life protected. PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT NICKELSBERG, GETTY
SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS – Created Oct. 10, 2014 by President Obama in Southern California. Snow-capped in winter, the San Gabriels provide an “island of green” for 15 million people who live within 90 minutes of it. This 346,000-acre landscape provides 70 percent of the open space for Los Angelenos and 30 percent of their drinking water. PHOTOGRAPH BY TED SOQUI, CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES
BASIN AND RANGE – Created July 10, 2015 by President Obama in eastern Nevada. Spanning 704,000 acres from the Mojave Desert to the sagebrush steppe of the Great Basin, the monument includes mountains and basins, sheer cliffs, caves with stalagmites and other formations, and preserves prehistoric rock art dating back 4,000 years. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY U.S DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
BEARS EARS – Created Dec. 28, 2016 by President Obama in southern Utah. Named for two buttes that jut above the ridgeline, the monument encompasses 1.35 million acres of Utah’s spectacular red-rock country. It protects ancient cliff dwellings and one of the largest collections of tribal artifacts in the West, and is so remote it was one of the last places in the continental United States to be mapped. PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE FREY, GETTY IMAGES
ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS – Created May 21, 2014 by President Obama in southern New Mexico. It includes 496,000 acres of both craggy canyons and grasslands in the Chihuahuan Desert. The monument protects a region with a rich history dating by to the Folsom and Clovis cultures, southern New Mexico’s first humans, and includes six wilderness study areas that have been protected since 1980. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL MELFORD, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
MOJAVE TRAILS – Created Feb. 12, 2016 by President Obama in Southern California. It extends along an undeveloped stretch of Route 66 between Ludlow and Needles. The monument features dramatic sand dunes, ancient lava flows and desert mountains traversed by both Spanish explorers and the transcontinental railway. Congress earlier designated more than 350,000 acres of the 1.6-million-acre monument as wilderness. PHOTOGRAPH BY GABRIEL BOUYS, AFP, GETTY
MARIANA TRENCH MARINE – Created Jan. 6, 2009 by President Bush in the western Pacific. It encompasses 95,216 square miles in the Mariana Archipelago, a string of 14 volcanic islands in the Northern Mariana islands. It includes the Marianas Trench, which extends 36,000 feet below sea level, and the largest mud volcanoes on Earth. The Sulfur Cauldron – a phenomenon so rare, the only other pool of molten sulfur that has been located is on one of Jupiter’s moons. The monument’s biologically diverse waters also support unique corals and a large population of sharks. PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK THIESSEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
ROSE ATOLL MARINE – Created Jan. 6, 2009 by President Bush in the South Pacific Ocean. It protects nearly 13,400 square miles and includes the Rose Atoll, a small Samoan island and the southernmost point of the United States. Within the monument boundaries lies the Rose Atoll Wildlife Refuge, created in 1973, and home to the delicate, rose-colored corals for which the atoll was named. The surrounding waters also supports an abundance of rare and endangered marine animals and seabirds, including the largest number of nesting turtles in American Samoa, giant clams, parrotfishes, sharks, whales and 17 species of birds. PHOTOGRAPH BY USFWS, TANDEM
CANYONS OF THE ANCIENTS – Created June 9, 2000 by President Clinton in southwestern Colorado. Reaching across 175,160 acres, the monument contains one of the highest densities of archaeological sites in the nation, dating back 10,000 years. It is also home to desert species such as the long-nosed leopard lizard, peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks and golden eagles. PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA FARLOW, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
SONORAN DESERT – Created Jan. 17, 2001 by President Clinton in southern Arizona. It encompasses 487,000 acres of the most biologically diverse desert in North America. It includes three mountain ranges – the Maricopa, Sand Tank and Table Top Mountains — as well as the Booth and White Hills and forests of distinctive saguaro cactus. PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID MCNEW, GETTY
IRONWOOD FOREST – Created June 9, 2000 by President Clinton in southern Arizona. The monument includes 129,000 acres and takes its name from one of the longest living trees in the Sonoran Desert. Ironwood trees live up to 800 years. One of the densest ironwood forests in the whole Sonoran grows in the protected Silver Bell Mountains. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY BOB WICK, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE – Created Sept. 18, 1996 by President Clinton in southern Utah. Advertised by the Utah state tourism agency as “phenomenal,” the monument takes its name from a series of plateaus extending over 1.7 million acres that descend like stair-steps from Bryce Canyon in southwestern Utah to the Grand Canyon and are named for their distinctive colors — the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs. At 9,000 feet, the Kaiparowits Plateau is the highest, most remote part of the monument. It also contains Utah’s largest coal field. Monument designation stopped a Dutch mining company from its plan to mine what Utah geologists estimated was 62 billion tons of coal. PHOTOGRAPH BY KEVIN MOLONEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES, REDUX
CARRIZO PLAIN – Created Jan. 17, 2001 by President Clinton 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles in Southern California. At 204,000 acres, it is one of the last remaining remnants of a once-sweeping grassy plain that covered the Central Valley two centuries before settlers arrived. It is known for its springtime wildflowers and Soda Lake, a dry lakebed and one of the largest natural alkali wetlands in Southern California. PHOTOGRAPH BY NICK WHEELER, ALAMY
HANFORD REACH – Created June 9, 2000 by President Clinton in eastern Washington state. Once a buffer zone around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation as it developed nuclear weapons, the monument includes the last free-flowing stretch of the mighty Columbia River — the 51-mile-long “Hanford Reach.” It also protects one of the last remaining large shrub-steppe ecosystems in the Columbia River Basin. PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM RICHARDSON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
VERMILION CLIFFS – Created Nov. 9, 2000 by President Clinton northeast of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Described at the time as a “geological treasure,” this expanse of 293,000 acres contains spectacular trails and vistas along trails that climb from 3,100 to 7,100 feet. Its centerpiece is the Paria Plateau, a “grand terrace” that lies in the center of multi-colored stair-step rock strata. The monument is also home to endangered California condors hatched in a captive breeding program and released into Vermilion Cliffs. PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANS LANTING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
UPPER MISSOURI RIVER BREAKS – Created Jan. 17, 2001 by President Clinton in northern Montana. It includes 377,000 acres along a 149-mile stretch of the Upper Missouri River and contains a segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail “as remote and nearly as undeveloped as it was in 1805.” Home to elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, hawks, prairie falcon and golden eagles, the monument also encompasses six wilderness study areas, a section of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, the Ft. Benton National Historic Landmark, and the Cow Creek Island Area of Critical Environmental Concern. PHOTOGRAPH BY DANITA DELIMONT, ALAMY
GRAND CANYON-PARASHANT – Created Jan. 11, 2000 by President Clinton along the north rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. At slightly more than 1 million acres, the monument is roadless, undeveloped and remote and in 2013, received International Night Sky Province designation in order to attempt long duration starlight monitoring. Geologic formations include deep canyons, high buttes, and, the Grand Wash Cliffs, shown here. Caves contain fossils dating to the ice age and tribal artifacts. PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA FARLOW
GIANT SEQUOIA – Created April 15, 2000 by President Clinton in central California. The monument protects 33 groves of ancient sequoias, the world’s largest tree. The monument’s 328,000 acres is divided into two sections directly north and south of Sequoia National Park. Sequoias grow only along a 60-mile-wide band of conifer forests on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID MCNEW, GETTY IMAGES