For more than 100 years, the Antiquities Act has proven to be a uniquely important tool for U.S. presidents to protect and conserve vital natural, archaeological and cultural treasures in America and New Mexico. Signed into law by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used wisely by both political parties to proclaim National Monuments that define and inspire the people of America.
The land, peoples and economy of New Mexico have significantly benefitted from the many National Monuments proclaimed in our state, including Carlsbad Caverns, Chaco Canyon, Capulin Volcano, Gila Cliff Dwellings, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.
Unfortunately, the Antiquities Act is under attack by anti-conservation leaders in Congress. Rep. Steve Pearce has demonstrated a fondness for an extreme agenda that would undermine our clean water, parks, and wildlife.
While critics express alarm over federal “land grabs,” it is important to remember that the Antiquities Act applies only to existing federal lands and waters and that National Monument designations require no increases in federal spending. In addition, President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative explicitly recognizes the important role local communities play in the process of designating National Monuments.
National Monuments have proven to bring economic growth to local economies. In 2008 visitors spent over $55 million, supporting over 1,000 jobs. Nationally, outdoor recreation has grown into a $730 billion industry generating more than 6.5 million jobs.
Even in these tough economic times, public opinion surveys point to large bipartisan majorities that support protections for land and water.