Fact Sheet Nov 9, 2022

What Is a National Monument?

A brief explanation of what these important public lands are and how they differ from national parks and other sites managed by the federal government.

National monuments are nationally significant lands and waters set aside for permanent protection. These public lands are similar to national parks in many ways, with some key differences.


Are national monuments statues or buildings?

No. Although many national monuments contain memorials or historic structures, these sites protect areas of land and/or water, similar to other kinds of national park sites, and are not individual statues.


What’s the difference between national monuments and national parks?

The primary difference between national monuments and other kinds of sites, such as national historic sites, national battlefields, national seashores and national parks, is in the way they are established.

Congress can create any kind of national park site by passing legislation designating the specified park.

U.S. presidents can only create national monuments by using the authority granted to them by Congress in the Antiquities Act of 1906. Thus national monuments are usually, but not always, created by the executive branch rather than the legislative branch of government.

Sometimes, the president will set land aside as a national monument and Congress will later amend the monument, changing its designation to a different kind of national park site. Theodore Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908, for example, and Congress later redesignated the site as a national park in 1919.


Can a president create a national monument from state-owned or privately owned land?

No. A president can only create national monuments from land that is already owned by the federal government.


Are national monuments always part of the National Park System?

No. National monuments can be managed by a number of federal agencies, and are sometimes jointly managed. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among other agencies that might manage these sites.

As of 2022, about 70% of sites created under the Antiquities Act are managed by the Park Service.


Do national monuments have bipartisan support?

Presidents of both major political parties have used the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments since 1906. As of October 2022, 18 presidents have used this authority and have designated 159 national monuments. See a complete list of all U.S. national monuments.


Are there economic benefits to AA designations?

Yes. Regions surrounding national monuments have seen continued growth or improvement in employment, personal income and increased per-capita income after the designation of a monument. Following the 2012 designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, for example, visitation to the area increased by 40% and local tax revenue in the gateway community of Taos increased by 21%.

National parks, in general, show a strong return on federal investment. In 2021, there were 297 million park visitors (up 25% from 2020), and they spent an estimated $20.5 billion in local gateway regions (up 41% from 2020) while visiting park lands. These expenditures supported 323,000 jobs, $14.6 billion in labor income, and $42.5 billion in economic output in the national economy.

Read more from NPCA