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Defending Our National Monuments

A hiker at Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

A hiker at Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Koji Hirano / Getty Images

What’s at Stake

These are some of the most valuable public lands in America. Also at stake is the rule of law. The Constitution devotes authority over our public lands to Congress, not to the president.


National monuments are unique among the special and protected land designations on federal public lands, because they are created pursuant to a special, but narrow, grant of authority to the president to regulate federal public lands.

Under the Antiquities Act, the president can essentially sign a proclamation to protect certain areas as national monuments. Once he signs the proclamation, those monuments get immediate protection, and they have to be managed to preserve the special values that are present on the monument. Areas that qualify include sites of historic or cultural significance, or areas of scientific interest—like a region of unusual geologic formations, or areas with ecological or biological significance. There's no size limit on national monuments. They could be as small as a few hundred acres or as large as millions of acres.

Since its enactment, the Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times to designate and protect national monuments. And some of our western icons—like Grand Canyon National Park, or Bryce National Park, or Zion and Arches National Parks—began life as national monuments. But others have remained national monuments for many decades and have become world-renowned, like the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

On April 26, 2017, President Trump began a review process and directed the Secretary of Interior to review all monuments designated since 1996 and over 100,000 acres in size, and to make recommendations about their fate.

Case ID

3344, 3511, 3534

Case Updates

June 21, 2019 | Legal Document

Cadiz Pipeline and Mojave Trails National Monument: Decision on Motion for Summary Judgment

The 2017 Determination was contrary to law and failed to explain its reversal from the 2015 Determination. The 2017 Determination therefore violated the APA. As such, the Court would DENY Defendants’ motions for summary judgment, and GRANT Plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment to the extent they attacked the 2017 Determination. The Court would remand the matter to the BLM forthwith.

April 2, 2019 | Legal Document

Legal Document: Federal Judge Upholds Expansion of Ecological Wonder Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

A federal judge rejects Murphy Timber’s challenge to President Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2017. The judge rules there was no dispute that President Obama acted within his authority when expanding the national monument and that there was no irreconcilable conflict between the Antiquities Act and the Oregon and California Lands Act.