What is a National Monument?

Public lands in the United States fall under many different types of protections and management. There are national parks, wilderness (and Wilderness), county parks, Tribal parks, state lands, and many more types of public lands. It can be confusing to keep track of it all, so today, we’re taking a look at national monuments!

So, what exactly is a National Monument?  

National monuments are permanently protected federal public lands for all people. This designation is given to landscapes and places of cultural, historic and scientific significance. There are currently 129 national monuments in the United States.

How are new national monuments established?

The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the President authority to designate national monuments in order to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” While most national monuments are established by the President, Congress has also established national monuments to protect natural and historic features.

Colorado National Monument. Photo: Intricate Explorer

Fun facts about national monuments:

  • Monuments are managed by eight federal agencies, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and even the US Air Force. Some are co-managed.
  • The first national monument was Devils Tower (aka Bear Lodge) in Wyoming, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in in 1906.
  • Some our most iconic national parks, like the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree, were first protected as national monuments.
  • Both Republican and Democratic presidents have used the Antiquities Act to create national monuments.

Why do national monuments matter to outdoorists? 

National monuments are a critical tool for protecting public lands and cultural resources. In addition to safeguarding landscapes, monuments provide recreation access for millions of outdoorists and boost local outdoor economies. Monuments are protected from fossil fuel extraction, and new management plans are written to accommodate visitors while protecting these outdoor places.


Created in collaboration with Outdoor Advocacy Project and Public Lands Solutions