Antiquities Act: Scope of Authority for Modification of National Monuments
Wyatt, Alexandra M.
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Beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt, Presidents have protected well over 100 areas under the Antiquities Act of 1906.1 These protected areas, totaling hundreds of millions of acres of land as well as large marine areas, are known as national monuments.2 The Antiquities Act allows the President to declare national monuments by issuance of a public proclamation.3 While early national monument proclamations were relatively concise documents describing the objects to be protected and reserving lands from appropriation or use under public land laws,4 some more recent national monument proclamations have set forth more detailed management terms and use restrictions.5 Some presidential proclamations of national monuments have been controversial. Disputes have arisen, for example, with respect to particular areas designated, monument size, the processes by which the monuments were created, and the management terms included in the proclamations.6 National monument proclamations have sometimes been challenged in court, but courts generally have upheld them and construed broadly the authority granted by the Antiquities Act to establish monuments.7 Some national monuments have been abolished or significantly diminished by acts of Congress.8 However, it appears that presidential authority may be more constrained, although it remains unresolved whether a President could lawfully abolish, or the extent to which a President could significantly diminish, a previously proclaimed national monument. No court cases have directly decided the issue of the authority of a President to revoke a national monument, but various analyses have suggested that the President would lack such authority. Debate continues regarding the scope of a President’s authority to take actions other than revocation, such as significantly diminishing a monument’s acreage, or curtailing or expanding monument uses.