One of the five is a large parcel of natural land in New Mexico-

Almost every President since Theodore Roosevelt has declared national monuments. The three greatest have been T.R. himself, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. George W. Bush finally declared a very large national monument in the ocean — the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a.k.a. the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.)  It is 140,000 square miles of ocean, with ten islands and numerous atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Many, but not all, of our great national parks began with Presidential action by first designating a national monument. Examples: the Grand Canyon, Olympic, Capital Reef and  Arches, Death Valley. Later Congress would “upgrade” the areas to national parks, often because of the belief that the Park designation would attract more visitors.

President Obama yesterday created 5 new national monuments on United States public land, under his powers from the Antiquities Act of 1906. All but one are small. Three are historic sites. From the standpoint of natural land and wildlife the prize is his creation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, 236,000 acres (370 square mi.). These add to three he established earlier in his Administration.   See photos and story.

Also established is a thousand acre San Juan Island National Monument in the San Juans of Puget Sound.  These acres are scattered about, but are especially valuable because the islands are almost all private land.

Creation of large national monuments is often politically controversial, but the big New Mexico monument seems to be popular locally with the only criticism coming from a couple outsiders — the radical development-orientated congressmen Rob Bishop of Utah and “Doc” Hastings of Washington State.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

13 Responses to Obama declares 5 new national monuments

  1. Kirk Robinson says:

    Well, let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come.

  2. Gail says:

    Is hunting permitted on these lands??

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      I am quite sure Obama’s order will not change the status of hunting on these lands.

      For the details folks will have to read the proclamation in the Federal Register on-line

    • mikepost says:

      Many large NMs allow hunting and even grazing if the site is otherwise condusive to that and ecosystems require it. Some obviously are not open to those uses due to size or proximity of development. Standard BLM management policies prevail.

  3. Ida Lupine says:

    Glad to read this. 🙂

  4. Ralph Maughan says:

    I amended the national monuments story substantially because I discovered I made a major error. These were not President Obama’s first national monuments. He had earlier designated three: Chimney Rock in Colorado (about 4200 acres), Fort Ord National Monument protecting an area of California coastline (14,000 acres), and Fort Monroe in Virginia. During the Civil War Fort Monroe, in the general area of the Confederate States of America, nevertheless, remained under the control of the United States. It became a haven for Blacks, and President Lincoln used it to launch military attacks against the forces of slavery. Later former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe.

    I had never heard of Fort Monroe until I read about it today in the Wikipedia.

  5. JB says:

    Perhaps this will finally convince some folks that Obama isn’t the conservation anti-Christ…though probably not. TimZ?

    • Ida Lupine says:

      🙂 Yes. I’m a little more hopeful about Sally Jewell now too. I think I was just a little apprehensive from all the goings-on after the wolf delisting.

    • timz says:

      I’m holding on to my opinion of Barry until the wolf slaughter stops. Your position as the number one Obama apologist is secure for now.

  6. MJ says:

    Well, with his latest nominee for Dept. of Energy and his recent signing of a that included a free ride for Monsanto’s GMOs, he is still a major disappointment. Obama still has a strong proclivity to associate the various departments and agencies with industry insiders and has proven far too “bendable” when it comes to negotiating legislation.

  7. Wolfy says:

    In this era of “let’s give all the gov’t lands to the state and private interests”, Its somewhat reassuring that the administration is protecting some small areas. Unfortunately, these new areas will compete with the existing properties for funding. I assume that they already have massive back-logged maintenance that will never get funded. Many existing properties get little or no funding, no maintenance, or law enforcement. Our national parks, forests, and monuments have $billion$ in back-logged maintenance and this administration as well as many past administrations haven’t given a crap. It’s a sorry state of affairs and we should be ashamed.


March 2013


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey