Antiquities Act

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Antiquities Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An act for the preservation of American antiquities.
Enacted by the 59th United States Congress
Effective June 8, 1906
Public law 59-209
Statutes at Large 34 Stat. 225
U.S.C. sections created
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 11016 by John F. Lacey (RIA) on January 9, 1906
  • Committee consideration by Public Lands
  • Passed the House on June 5, 1906 
  • Passed the Senate on June 7, 1906  with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on June 8, 1906 ()
  • Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906
United States Supreme Court cases
Cameron v. United States
Cappaert v. United States
United States v. California
Devils Tower, the first National Monument

The Antiquities Act of 1906, (Pub.L. 59–209, 34 Stat. 225, 54 U.S.C. §§ 320301320303), is an act passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906. This law gives the President of the United States the authority to, by presidential proclamation, create national monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. The Act has been used more than a hundred times since its passage.


The Antiquities Act was signed into place by President Theodore Roosevelt (Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt) during his second term in office, the act resulted from concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts – collectively termed "antiquities" – on federal lands in the West, such as at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Removal of artifacts from these lands by private collectors – "pot hunters," in the language of the time – had become a serious problem by the end of the 19th century. In 1902, Iowa Congressman John F. Lacey, who chaired the House Committee on the Public Lands, traveled to the Southwest with the rising anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett, to see for himself the extent of the pot hunters' impact. His findings, supported by an exhaustive report by Hewett to Congress detailing the archaeological resources of the region, provided the necessary impetus for the passage of the legislation.[1]

Since the Antiquities Act was first signed into effect under the 26th President of the United States, all but four sitting presidents, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush have chosen to enlarge or dedicate new national monuments [2]. President Obama in his last term in office errected the most monument, under the Antiquities Act, than any President before him with 26. The President to have designated the highest number of monuments before President Obama was President Theodore Roosevelt with 18 monuments.[3]

On April 26, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing a review of the law and its uses. [4]


The Act was intended to allow the President to set aside certain valuable public natural areas as park and conservation land. The 1906 act stated that it was intended for: "... the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest." These areas are given the title of "National Monuments." It also allows the President to reserve or accept private lands for that purpose. The aim is to protect all historic and prehistoric sites on United States federal lands and to prohibit excavation or destruction of these antiquities. With this act, this can be done much more quickly than going through the Congressional process of creating a National Park. The Act states that areas of the monuments are to be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld presidential proclamations under the Antiquities Act, ruling each time that the Act gives the president nearly-unfettered discretion as to the nature of the object to be protected and the size of the area reserved.[5][6]

Some areas designated as National Monuments have later been converted into National Parks, or incorporated into existing National Parks.

The first use of the Act protected a large geographic feature – President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower National Monument on September 24, 1906. President Roosevelt also used it to create the Grand Canyon National Monument – the first step in protecting that place of great historic and scientific interest.

At 583,000 square miles (1,510,000 km2), Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the largest protected area proclaimed.[7] The smallest, Father Millet Cross National Monument, was a mere 0.0074 acres (30 m2).[8]

For any excavation, the Act requires that a permit (Antiquities Permit) be obtained from the Secretary of the department which has jurisdiction over those lands.

Reduction of powers

Presidential powers under the Act have been reduced twice. The first time followed the unpopular proclamation of Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943. The 1950 law that incorporated Jackson Hole into an enlarged Grand Teton National Park also amended the Antiquities Act, requiring Congressional consent for any future creation or enlargement of National Monuments in Wyoming.[9] The second time followed Jimmy Carter's use of the Act to create fifty-six million acres (230,000 km²) of National Monuments in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requires Congressional ratification of the use of the Antiquities Act in Alaska for withdrawals of greater than 5,000 acres (20.2 km²).[10] Under the Trump administration all monuments dedicated after the year 1996 have been called into question. The Trump Administration is possibly looking to modify or even dismantle some of the monuments erected under the 1906 Antiquities Act [11]. Although some Presidents have chose to ignore the tradition of preservation of notable environmental or historic areas no President to date has undone a predecessors monument [12].

Use in popular culture

The Antiquities Act is referenced in The West Wing season one episode "Enemies", where President Bartlet uses it to counter an amendment attached to a bill by Congress that would allow an area of the Montana wilderness to be strip-mined. However, the episode erroneously states that the President can declare a National Park. A National Monument would have been more accurate.[13]

National Monuments Preserved (1906-2006)

  1. Devils Tower
  2. El Morro
  3. Montezuma Castel
  4. Petrified Forest
  5. Chaco Canyon
  6. Cinder Core
  7. Lassen Peak
  8. Gila Cliff Dwellings
  9. Tonto
  10. Muir Woods
  11. Grand Canyon
  12. Grand Canyon "II"
  13. Pinnacles
  14. Jewel Cave
  15. Natural Bridge
  16. Lewis and Clark Cavern
  17. Tumacacori
  18. Wheeler
  19. Mount Olympus
  20. Navajo
  21. Oregon Caves
  22. Mukuntu-weap Zion
  23. Zion "II"
  24. Shoshone Cavern
  25. Gran Quivira
  26. Sitka
  27. Rainbow Bridge
  28. Big Hole Battlefields
  29. Colorado
  30. Devil Postpile
  31. Cabrillo
  32. Papago Saguaro
  33. Dinosaur
  34. Walnut Canyon
  35. Bandelier
  36. Sieur de Monts
  37. Capulin Mountian
  38. Old Kansaan
  39. Verendrye
  40. Casa Grande
  41. Katmai
  42. Scotts Bluff
  43. Yucca House
  44. Lehman Cave
  45. Timpanogos Cave
  46. Fossil Cycad
  47. Aztec Ruin
  48. Hovenweep
  49. Mound City Group
  50. Pipe Springs
  51. Bryce Canyon
  52. Carlsbad Cave
  53. Chiricahua
  54. Craters of the Moon
  55. Fort Wood
  56. Castle Pinckney
  57. Fort Pulaski
  58. Fort Marion
  59. Fort Matanzas
  60. Wupatki
  61. Meriwether Lewis
  62. Glacier Bay
  63. Father Millet Cross
  64. Lava Beds (California)
  65. Arches (Utha)
  66. Holy Cross
  67. Sunset Crater
  68. Great Sand Dunes (Colorado)
  69. White Sands (New Mexico)
  70. Death valley
  71. Saguaro
  72. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  73. Cedar Breaks
  74. Fort Jefferson (Florida)
  75. Joshua Tree
  76. Organ Pipe Cactus (Arizona)
  77. Capitol Reef (Utha)
  78. Channel Islands
  79. Fort Laramire
  80. Santa Rosa Islands
  81. Tuzigoot
  82. Jackson Hole
  83. Effigy Mounds
  84. Edison Laboratory
  85. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
  86. Russell Cave
  87. Buck Island Reef
  88. Marble Canyon
  89. Admiralty Island
  90. Aniakchak
  91. Becharof
  92. Bering Land Bridge
  93. Cape Krusenstern
  94. Denali
  95. Gates of the Artic
  96. Kenia Fjords
  97. Kobuk Valley
  98. Lake Clark
  99. Misty Fjords
  100. Noatak
  101. Wrangell-St Elias
  102. Yukon Charley River
  103. Yukon Flats
  104. Grand Staircase-Escalante
  105. Agua Fria
  106. California Costal
  107. Grand Canyon Parashant
  108. Giant Sequoia
  109. Canyons of the Ancients
  110. Cascade-Siskiyou
  111. Hanford Reach
  112. Ironwood Forest
  113. President Lincoln and Solider's Home
  114. Vermilloin Cliffs
  115. Carrizo Plain
  116. Kash-Katuwe Tent Rocks
  117. Minidoka Internment
  118. Pompeys Piller
  119. Sonoran Desert
  120. Upper Missouri River Breaks
  121. Virgin Islands Coral Reef
  122. Governors Island
  123. African Burial Ground
  124. Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
  125. World War II Valor in the Pacific
  126. Rose Atoll
  127. Pacific Remote Islands
  128. Marianas Trench
  129. Fort Monroe
  130. Fort Ord
  131. Chimney Rock
  132. Cesar Chavez
  133. San Juan Islands
  134. Rio Grande Del Norte
  135. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad
  136. First State
  137. Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers
  138. Organ Mountains-Desert peaks
  139. San Gabriel Mountains
  140. Honouliuli
  141. Pullman
  142. Browns Canyon
  143. Berryessa Snow Mountain
  144. Waco Mammoth
  145. Basin and Range (Nevada)
  146. Mojave Trails
  147. Sand to Snow
  148. Castle Mountain
  149. Belmont-Paul Women's Equality
  150. Stonewall
  151. Katahdin Woods and Waters
  152. Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine


See also


  1. ^ Ken Burns. The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Florentine Films. 
  2. ^ "Americian Antiquities Act of 1906". National Park Service. Retrieved 28 March 2018. 
  3. ^ Kraft, Michael; Vig, Norman (2017). Environmental Policy New Directions for the Twenty-First Century (10th ed.). Sage. 
  4. ^ Merica, Dan. "Trump order could roll back public lands protections from 3 presidents". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Cameron v. United States, 252 U.S. 450
  6. ^ Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128
  7. ^ Papahānaumokuākea protects submerged land. The largest surface reservation was the proclamation of Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument, 10,950,000 acres (40,000 km2).
  8. ^ "Antiquites Act: Monument List". National Park Service Archeology Program. Archived from the original on 9 May 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2009. .
  9. ^ Robert W. Righter. "National Monuments to National Parks: The Use of the Antiquities Act of 1906". Archived from the original on 27 May 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2006. 
  10. ^ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980". Archived from the original on 26 June 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2006. 
  11. ^ Vig, Norman; Kraft, Michael (2017). Environmental Policy New Direction for the Twenty-First Century. Sage. p. 106-107. 
  12. ^ Vig, Norman; Kraft, Michael (2017). Environmental Policy New Direction for the Twenty-First Century. Sage. p. 106-107. 
  13. ^ "The West Wing: Enemies". West Wing Transcripts. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  14. ^

External links

  • Richard West Sellars, "A Very Large Array: Early Federal Historic Preservation--The Antiquities Act, Mesa Verde, and the National Park Service Act"(background and legislative history) published by the University of New Mexico School of Law, 2007
  • Chronological list of uses of the Antiquities Act and related actions from NPS
  • The Story of the Antiquities Act, by Ronald F. Lee
  • Antiquities Act 1906–2006
  • The National Park Service
  • Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt
  • The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation, ed. by David Harmon, Frank P. McManamon, and Dwight T. Pitcaithley
  • The Highs and Lows of the Antiquities Act
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