The Antiquities Act and America’s National Parks

As Americans anticipate family vacations, many are planning trips to our nation’s iconic national parks, such as the Grand Canyon, Zion, Acadia and Olympic. But they may not realize that these and other parks exist because presidents used their power under the Antiquities Act, enacted on June 8, 1906, to protect those places from exploitation and development.
The Conversation

The Antiquities Act has saved many special places, but at times its use has angered nearby communities. Some critics argue that presidents have used the act to restrict natural resource development. Others simply do not like the fact that the president has such power – even though Congress gave it to presidents by passing the law.

While the Antiquities Act has played a crucial role in the growth of our national park system, it has become a flashpoint for disputes from Alaska to Maine over protection and use of public lands. For that reason, it works best when it is not used arbitrarily or too often, and when the public understands and supports its use.

The Antiquities Act was passed to conserve the stunning archaeological treasures of the American Southwest. As settlers, prospectors, ranchers and explorers pushed into the region in the late 1800s, they discovered unique and spectacular sites left by ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the area from about A.D. 700 to 1600. Examples included dwellings such as the Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House at what would eventually become Mesa Verde National Park.

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