The Antiquities Act of 1906 was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Act provides authority to the President of the United States to designate federal lands as national monuments. This is done by Presidential proclamation and is to be used to protect significant cultural, natural, and scientific features. Since its passage, 16 Presidents have used the Act more than 100 times.
The Act was first passed to help stop people from looting archaeological sites and taking Indian artifacts. Since the passage of the Act, Presidents have used it to protect public land from mineral exploitation or commercial development by turning them into national monuments.
After signing the Act, President Roosevelt created 18 monuments including Olympic National Park and the Grand Canyon. The monuments created by President Roosevelt totaled more than one million acres.
According to the Act, a President can only create a national monument from land that is already owned by the federal government. The Act does not typically change the land use. If the federal land already has leases for ranching, mining or logging or drilling, these can continue, however, new leases are usually denied.
According to legal scholars, the Act does not provide a President the ability to revoke designation, but they may change the boundaries. It is possible for Congress to create a national park from a national monument and this has happened many times.
Protecting national monuments is important to most Americans. According to a Harvard study, 93 percent of those who responded felt that public lands, historical sites, and national parks should be protected.
The Act has been modified a few times, twice reducing Presidential powers. It was also amended in 1950 to require Congress to agree before national monuments could be created or enlarged in Wyoming. This was as a result of the unpopular creation of Jackson Hole National Monument.