National Parks Conservation Association Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary of the Antiquities Act

Date:   June 8, 2006

 Ron Tipton, Senior Vice President of Programs, NPCA,  202-454-3915
 Shannon Andrea, Media Relations Manager, NPCA, 202-454-3371

National Parks Conservation Association Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary of the Antiquities Act

Group Encourages Presidential Use to Protect and Preserve Our National Heritage

Washington, D.C. – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) joins in celebrating the centennial of the Antiquities Act of 1906, one of the most important laws established to protect public lands threatened by exploitation and development.  Under the Act, presidents have the authority to protect national landmarks by designating them as national monuments. 

“The centennial celebration of the Antiquities Act represents an important achievement in history, one that helps protect our nation’s cultural and natural treasures,” said Ron Tipton, Senior Vice President for the National Parks Conservation Association.  “We encourage President Bush to seize this opportunity to help preserve these important areas of our national heritage.” 


On June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Act into law to establish the first legal protection of natural and cultural resources in the United States.  The Act ensures that many of our nation’s archaeological resources, historic structures, and natural areas are preserved for future generations.  Fourteen presidents have used the Act to establish 123 national monuments, many of which have become part of the National Park System. 


In 2005, units of the National Park System protected in whole or in part through the Antiquities Act received more than 45 million visitors—nearly one out of every six national park visits.  The Antiquities Act has facilitated the protection of more than 25 percent of the National Park System, including spectacular national treasures like the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Zion, Joshua Tree, Gates of the Arctic, and the Statue of Liberty. 


Presidents often have exercised their power to declare lands of the United States national monuments when those places were threatened with degradation or when the priceless antiquities upon them faced potential annihilation.  However, use of the Antiquities Act has been exercised sparingly.  Throughout the last century, presidents have issued Antiquities Act declarations, on average, once per year.  Congress has done much more to validate the decisions these presidents have made through subsequent expansions and re-designations as national parks. 


In 1906, the first national monument designated by President Theodore Roosevelt was Devils Tower in Wyoming.  Throughout his administration, Roosevelt used the Act to proclaim18 monuments in nine states.  Some of these national treasures include Petrified Forest (Ariz.), the Grand Canyon (Ariz.), and Mount Olympus (Wash.). 


Between 1913 and 1919, the administration of Woodrow Wilson designated 13 national monuments in nine states.  President Wilson originally proclaimed the national monument Sieur de Monts, which was later redesignated as Acadia National Park (Maine) in 1930.


From 1923 to 1925, the administration of Calvin Coolidge proclaimed 13 national monuments across 10 states.  National monuments such as the Fort Wood (N.Y.) and Glacier Bay (Alaska) were established through the Act.  Since then, they have become part of the National Park System and are known today as the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.   


Between 1933 and 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated 11 national monuments in six states.  During his administration he proclaimed national monuments that were later designated as national parks, including Joshua Tree National Park (Calif.), Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Ariz.), and Grand Teton National Park (Wyo.). 


In 1978, President Jimmy Carter elevated more than 50 million federally managed acres in Alaska to national monument status.  That action led to one to one of the greatest conservation achievements of the century—the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.  Through this Act, the size of the National Park System more than doubled in size, protecting millions of additional acres of rugged Alaska wildlands, and established iconic parks such as Denali National Park and Preserve.  


From 1996 to 2001, President Bill Clinton had considerable impact on the preservation of public lands and resources with his decisions to proclaim 20 new national monuments in 12 states under the Antiquities Act.  Monuments proclaimed during his administration include: Giant Sequoia National Monument (Calif.), Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (V.I.), and Governors Island National Monument (N.Y.). 


In February 2006, President George W. Bush designated the African Burial Ground in New York City a national monument, making it the 390th unit of the Park System.  This was a welcome first use of the Antiquities Act by President Bush in the five years of his administration. 


The only three presidents who did not use the Act were Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.


For more background information on the Antiquities Act, please visit NPCA’s Web site at:




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