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Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed by the U.S. Congress to give the president of the United States the power to declare federal land through executive order national monuments for the “protection of objects of historic and scientific interest” for all Americans to enjoy and appreciate as part of our collective national heritage.

This important conservation law was passed at a time that much of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage was being exploited for the short term profits of a few people. Today nearly two dozen sites have been designated national monuments in Arizona alone, most of which are national parks.

Presently our natural and cultural resources on public land are experiencing some of the same threats that were faced earlier in our history. Some mining, energy development, logging interests are hoping to develop more of our public land for their operations and they are using some members of congress to make it easier to use these lands and harder for the rest of us to protect our public land from destruction. These congressmen want to limit the president’s ability to declare national monuments by requiring approval by the legislatures of states where the national monuments are to be located. Needless to say these lands are federal lands, owned by all Americans, and are not state lands. Can you image the Arizona state legislature making additional decisions about land management? They cannot even manage the state’s land and property. They had to sell parts of the state capital to balance the state’s budget and now they lease the property back. Wow!

When the Grand Canyon was declared a national monument in 1908 there were considerable efforts to privatize the Grand Canyon. There was even a suggestion to sell drinking water to thirsty Grand Canyon visitors. Fortunately, Theodore Roosevelt with the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which by the way was passed with bipartisan support, declared the Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908.

Our current 112th Congress recently passed HR4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act. The bill is sitting in the Senate waiting to be scheduled for debate. One of the bad parts of this bill is to reduce the president’s ability to designate national monuments by requiring approval of the states where the national monument will be located.

Let’s let our Senators know that we appreciate our national monuments and we support the president’s authority to designate national monuments so that we do not lose our natural and cultural heritage for the short term profits of a few people. If HR4089 was the law in 2011 we would not have the Sonoran Desert or Ironwood Forest National Monuments. If HR4089 was the law in 1908 we might not have the Grand Canyon National Park and what a shame that would be for all Americans, including the millions of foreign visitors who will never forgets its grandeur and the American idea of public land.


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