The Antiquities Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. It gives our president the authority to restrict the use of public land owned by the federal government by executive order and bypass the Congress. The aim is to protect important federally owned sites by prohibiting its excavation and destruction. The land is designated as a National Monument and although the land will receive less funding and protection, the process is much quicker than going through Congress to establish a National Park. There are National Monuments that eventually turn into National Parks though, like Arches in Utah, which was designated a National Monument in 1929 and then a National Park in 1971.
The Antiquities Act was first used to designate Devil’s Tower National Monument (pictured above) in Wyoming and has been used over a hundred times since. Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument (post below) in Utah was dedicated by Bill Clinton in 1996 during the height of the presidential election. The Utah congressional delegation and state governor were notified only 24 hours in advance that the ceremony for Grand-Staircase would not be held in their own state, but at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. That November, Clinton won Arizona by a margin of 2.2%, and lost Utah to Republican Bob Dole by 21.1%.*