Protect Monuments Now TOOLKIT

What’s Going On: The establishment of national monuments through the Antiquities Act has proven to be a key tool for protecting landscapes that benefit cultural resources, unique scientific objects, outdoor recreation, and regional economies.

Through The Antiquities Act, presidents have been able to protect hundreds of millions of acres of land that have significant cultural and historical significance. These presidential designated national monuments protect our public lands, air, water, wildlife, culturally and historically significant artifacts and sites. Furthermore, monuments help to support and grow local economies, tourism, and outdoor access. 

We appreciate President Biden taking action to restore protections to Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase-Escalante National monuments. 

Now, we look to President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and to work with communities across the nation to protect more irreplaceable cultural places and public lands and waters, and fulfill the President’s pledge to protect 30% of U.S. lands, waters, and ocean by 2030, outlined in the America the Beautiful initiative.

How We’re Taking Action: We’ve teamed up with Hispanic Access Foundation to create a letter urging President Biden to act swiftly and use his authority to protect public lands. Join us and sign this letter thanking President Biden for restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and urge him to protect more important landscapes through the Antiquities Act!

These are the key landscapes we hope to see protected:

Let’s use our voices to raise this issue, gather signatures, and reach the ears of the White House and Department of Interior. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Tiktok generation, it’s that it just takes one or two viral social moments to spread a message loud and clear. Using the exponential reach of social media platforms to protect public lands? That’s our idea of a good time. 

Here’s How You Can Join Us: 

  1. Sign the letter!
  2. Download and share the graphics.
  3. Share our post on the Outdoor Advocacy page in your story, or retweet us.
  4. Use this tracking link to encourage folks to sign (and share) the letter:
    2. Here are a few ideas for mediums you can share via:
      1. Instagram stories!
      2. Tweets
      3. In your newsletters.
      4. Holler at your group text. 
  5. Let’s collaborate. Want to host an IG Live to talk about this issue? Have national monuments content we should be amplifying? Let’s connect!


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

What is a watershed (and what makes a healthy one)?

Written by Kelly Loria
Cover image by Michael Browning

Take a step outside and look around–you are currently in a watershed. Since water follows the path of least resistance as it ebbs downward from high to low areas, a watershed is any land that drains water or snow into a body of water like a stream, river, wetland, or lake.

Watersheds are defined by topographic features like mountains, and can refer to very large (like really, really big) stretches of land. For example, the Mississippi River is one of the largest watersheds within the Continental U.S. and receives water from 33 states.

Because watersheds can span across vast landscapes, water is often dirtied by feedlots, enriched with fertilizers, and contaminated by oils, trash, and anything else it can carry–which is a problem because this water becomes our drinking water, shower water, and toilet water, all of which have the potential to affect our health.

Therefore, it’s super important to keep watersheds clean–but how do we know if a watershed is healthy enough to provide clean water? The answer: a list of healthy watershed characteristics created by the Environmental Protection Agency:

  1. “Dynamic hydrologic and geomorphologic processes within their natural range of variation.” 

    At first this sounds like gibberish, but broken down, it means a little something like this: Aquatic environments evolved to handle seasonal patterns of precipitation. This means that aquatic ecosystems need small, regular floods that submerge riverside floodplains to create sandbars, channels, and diverse aquatic habitats, which provide valuable nutrients for organisms and vegetation. For a watershed to remain ecologically intact so that it can provide economically valuable commodities and services to us hooomans, it needs to receive enough water and at the right times. Once this happens, we can extract water for our own needs without causing too much harm to the watershed. 

  1. “Habitat of sufficient size and connectivity to support native aquatic and riparian species.”

    When we build dams or water diversions, we block aquatic species from traveling around as much as they once did. This is called habitat fragmentation, which makes it challenging for certain species to find food and mates, or for migratory species to find places to rest and feed along their routes. Modern updates to aquatic infrastructure, such as fish ladders that connect rivers to reservoirs with water steps, can help mediate some of this fragmentation and facilitate aquatic species travel.

  1. “Physical and chemical water quality conditions able to support healthy biological communities.”

    Water quality is assessed based on both its chemistry (i.e. how much nitrogen is in the water) and physical features (i.e. temperature). The level to which water quality is monitored and enforced varies state by state, which means that states can have a regulatory standard that is lower than what is best for maintaining healthy aquatic life. This is important because whatever happens upstream–like fertilizer use–can have really harmful impacts on aquatic ecosystems in downstream. 

What happens upstream matters. When aquatic systems receive high concentrations of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, it can cause rapid growth of algae (HABs aka Harmful Algal Blooms). Algae exists in all aquatic environments, but when they come in contact with nitrogen and phosphorus from outside of their natural habitats (like from fertilizers) they grow and grow and grow some more. When the algae eventually dies, the process of breaking down the huge amount of dead algae lowers the amount of oxygen available for other aquatic life, resulting in poor water quality. This is a huge problem for the Mississippi because it has 33 states worth of agricultural nitrogen and phosphorus to pick up before it pours into the Gulf of Mexico, which causes the infamous dead zone.  

Watersheds are very cool and are the whole reason we have water–but, not every watershed meets these EPA standards, resulting in contaminated water. That’s where you, me, and all of our friends come in. It’s our job to advocate for clean water. So, like always, contact them reps, baby!


What is Protecting America’s Wilderness Act Plus?

If the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act sounds familiar–it’s because you’ve heard of this public lands policy package before. Last year, the outdoor community advocated hard for the first iteration of then-called PAWA, a group of six bills that promised to protect 1.3 million acres of public lands and more than 1200 river miles. Unfortunately, PAWA fell short in 2020–but now in 2021 it’s back, better, and in need of your support.

What is Protecting America’s Wilderness Act Plus? This newly introduced package now includes eight bills:

This will be the first major public lands/outdoor related vote of this new Congress, and the first vote happens in the House on Wednesday 9/24/21. It is imperative that outdoorists raise our voices on this issue to set the stage for protecting public lands and prioritizing the health of our environment during this new Congress.

Here’s two ways to take action:

  1. Tell your lawmakers to pass these public land protections using Outdoor Alliance’s FastAction tool here. Outdoor Alliance also has excellent resources and context to learn more about PAW+.
  2. Use American Alpine Club’s Phone2Action letter writing tool to write your reps here.

Why is it so important to take action right now? We’ll leave you with these words from our friends at Outdoor Alliance: “It’s incredibly important that the outdoor community shows up in force to support these efforts. Our support now not only promises to protect important outdoor landscapes, but also greases the skids for future protections. For new members of Congress especially, these early votes are a litmus test for public lands issues. Lawmakers need to hear right off the bat that their voters are enthusiastic about conservation and the outdoors – let’s make this public lands package the beginning, not the end, of what we accomplish together this Congress.”

Have any resources on PAW+ we’re missing? Send us an e-mail at and we’ll add ’em to this post!