A National Monument (Monument) is a protected area that can be created from any land owned or controlled by the U.S. federal government by proclamation of the President of the United States.
A National Monument can be created in two ways. The President of the United States can proclaim a monument by the authority given by Congress under the American Antiquities Act of 1906 (Act link). A President’s authority under the Act has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court (the Court) a number of times. Monuments can also be created by an act of Congress.
The Act states that the President can use his authority to designate lands that have historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest. In 1920 the Court upheld the President’s authority to proclaim Monuments. The Court also found that the Act gave the President the authority to preserve lands with cultural or scientific interest. In 2002 the Federal District Court in Washington D.C. ruled that the Act may protect natural wonders and wilderness values.
The Sedona Verde Valley Red Rock National Monument meets all the criteria required for a National Monument. The Monument has a human history dating back 14,000 years. The area has one of the highest densities for antiquities in the Southwestern United States. There is a long history of indigenous people such as the Sinagua and Hohokam Indians. The Yavapai-Apache Tribe still has trust lands in the region and sacred sites located in the Monument.
The Monument lands have significant scenic, riparian habitat and natural resource values. In addition it is a part of the Pacific flyway for migrating birds. There are a number of listed sensitive species which depend on habitat within the Monument.
The Act is very specific about the ownership of Monument lands. The Act states: “. . .situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States.”
A review of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report National Monuments and the Antiquities Act found that in 2008 the United States Supreme Court made a decision that the Antiquities Act “. . . does not authorize government officials forcibly to take private property to provide such care or to enter private property.” In 1978 The Supreme Court described the Antiquities Act as applying solely to federal property. “A reservation under the Antiquities Act thus means no more than that the land is shifted from one federal use, and perhaps from one federal managing agency, to another.”
The CRS report identified that, “. . . the Clinton Administration indicated that the monument designation does not apply to nonfederal lands. The Solicitor of the Department of the Interior (DOI) asserted this view in 1999 testimony before Congress, stating that the Antiquities Act applies only to federal lands and that monument designations cannot bring state or private lands into federal ownership.”
Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us. – Theodore Roosevelt