On the heels of his recent designation of land in Colorado, Hawaii, and Illinois as national monuments, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to include three additional national monuments that total over 1 million acres of protected federal land. The new additions bring Obama's national monument designations up to 19, adding up to more than 260 million acres, the most of any president. The latest monument inclusions are:
Berryessa Snow Mountain, California. Located less than 100 miles from the Bay Area and Sacramento, the 331,000-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain boasts rare wildlife such as tule elk, osprey, and bald eagles, as well as an abundance of recreational opportunities at Snow Mountain and Cache Creek.
Waco Mammoth, Texas. This dig site contains well-preserved remains of at least 19 Columbian Mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and a Western tortoise, dating back 68,000 years.
Basin and Range, Nevada. Totaling 704,000 acres of unique desert geography, with flat, arid valleys and faulted mountain chains, it sits about two hours northwest of Las Vegas. In addition to the stunning desert landscapes, it includes Michael Heizer's "City," a project that, when completed, will be the world's largest natural sculpture.
The federal protection for these new monuments will prevent commercial and destructive land-use in these areas. "Teddy Roosevelt, it's been said, had America's best idea when he talked about preserving the incredible national heritage," said Obama during a White House Oval Office ceremony on Friday. "And for me to be able to add to that heritage is greatly appreciated."
And while Obama rests on the fact that these new designations will further support growth in the outdoor recreation industry — which already generates an estimated $646 billion in consumer spending per year — the presidential use of land designation through the Antiquities Act has faced opposition and controversy since 1906, when Teddy Roosevelt met with resistance for designating Devil's Tower, Wyoming. Franklin Roosevelt also caused a stir while designating Jackson Hole National Monument, as did Jimmy Carter, when he proclaimed 15 monuments in the state of Alaska.
The argument poses conservationism on a national scale against recognition of local economy and land-use rights (such as farming and would-be prohibited recreation opportunities) that add to regional commerce. But for conservationists, the latest announcement is a victory. "By creating these three new national monuments, President Obama is continuing his commitment to preserving America's treasured places and cementing his well-deserved place in conservation history," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters in a press release.