Antiquities Act Facts

  • Passed by Republican-led Congress in 1906
  • Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt
  • Utilized by 16 presidents – 8 Republicans, 8 Democrats

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Since 1906, American Presidents have been able to designate national monuments – #MonumentsforAll – under the Antiquities Act so that future generations can experience our nation’s wildlife, rivers, historic sites and open spaces.

The Act grew out of concerns that developed over the course of the last quarter of the 19th century for the preservation of America’s archeological sites and the artifacts and information that they contained. National and regional educators and scientists, including those involved in the developing profession of archeology, joined together in a movement to safeguard sites on public lands being endangered by haphazard digging and purposeful, commercial artifact looting.

The Antiquities Act was the first law to establish that public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments.

The Antiquities Act has stood the test of time and remains relevant today. It has been used by nearly every President, both Democrat and Republican, since Teddy Roosevelt to preserve America’s most iconic places for current and future generations of Americans to enjoy.

Congress gave the President the ability to protect lands without bureaucratic hurdles for times when Congress in unable to act quickly.

The Antiquities Act does not lessen Congress’ role and authority to determine the level of resources for the management and maintenance of national monuments or to re-designate any monument as a National Park or other federal reserve. In addition, Congress can also designate national monuments, and has done so more than 30 times.

Experience has demonstrated the wisdom of giving presidents this authority – nearly half of America’s national parks were originally protected by the Antiquities Act, including the Grand Canyon, Acadia, Death Valley, Muir Woods and Zion National Parks.

The Antiquities Act continues to be an important tool to honor our country’s diverse national mosaic and proud heritage. In the past several years, an increasingly diverse coalition, including small businesses, sportsmen, veterans, African American, Latino and Native American communities, and conservation groups have called on congressional leaders to do more – not less – to protect our shared public lands.