Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

National Monuments

The National Monuments Act Act of 1906 is an extraordinary law. Among other things, Congress gave to the President the power to proclaim national monuments and most presidents since Teddy Roosevelt (Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama [so far!] being the exceptions) have used the authority.

Also called the Antiquities Act, the National Monuments Act is codified at 54 U.S.C. § 320301. This section contains the heart of the act:

The President of the United States is authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected. When such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bona fide unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.

Initially, the establishment of national monuments is nearly always controversial at the local level.

In proclaiming most national monuments where livestock grazing was established on the lands, most presidential proclamations that established a national monument provided for the continuation of livestock grazing. However, most recent national monument proclamations have begun to constructively address livestock grazing by either banning it outright or facilitating its retirement.

While the National Park Service manages most national monuments as part of the National Park System, the Bureau of Land Management manages several as part of the National Landscape Conservation System. In addition, the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service also manage a few national monuments as part of the National Forest System and National Wildlife Refuge System respectively.


Precedent for Secretary Zinke’s Gut-Job on the National Monuments examines the 18 times, pertaining to 16 national monuments, in which a later presidential proclamation diminished the acreage protected in an earlier presidential proclamation.

Mark Salvo and I have published articles pertaining to livestock grazing in national monuments.

"Evolving Presidential Policy Toward Livestock Grazing in National Monuments" was published in the Penn State Environmental Law Review.

"Pillaged Preserves: Livestock in Naitonal Parks and Wilderness Areas" is a chapter in Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West.

"Livestock Grazing in the National Park and Wilderness Preservation Systems" was published in Wild Earth.


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