National monuments are significant lands and water set aside for permanent protection. The Antiquities Act of 1906 established the foundation for preserving and protecting our nation’s archeological heritage. Per National Park Service, the agency of the U.S. federal government responsible for managing national parks and monuments, and natural, historical, and recreational properties, it remains “…dedicated to conserving unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. NPS explains that U.S. Presidents have used the authority of the Antiquities Act nearly 300 times to protect archeological sites, historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest already on federal lands. On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, President Biden announced the establishment of two new national monuments using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906. One national monument is in Nevada and the other is in Texas. The president also launched an effort to create a National Marine Sanctuary southwest of Hawaii.
Among the 46th president’s goals are to conserve at least 30% of federal lands and waters by 2030. In doing so, President Biden explains, “We’re protecting the heart and soul of our national pride.” Together, the two national monuments will conserve 514,000 acres of public land. The first site is southern Nevada’s Avi Kwa Ame, which is the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain. This area is sacred to Yuman speaking tribes as well as the Hopi, Southern Paiute, and Chemehuevi. The land serves to provide a safe habitat for animals such as bighorn sheep and desert tortoise. It also provides protection for the Joshua tree forest, whose trees are native to southwestern United States. The second area to be preserved as a new monument is Castner Range, just outside of El Paso, Texas. This site covering 6,672 acres is a former training and testing location for the U.S. Army. The land contains more than 40 identified archeological sites with pottery remnants, petroglyphs, and structures. It is also habitat for golden eagles, Texas horned lizards, western burrowing owls, and more. Biden’s marine sanctuary designation would help protect U.S. waters around the Pacific Remote Islands and would essentially expand upon the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Biden issued a directive to move toward renaming the monument and islands to honor native Hawaiian heritage.
The announcement of the new monuments was delivered at the White House Conservation in Action Summit. Biden shared, “Our country’s national treasures define our identity as a nation. They’re a birthright we have to pass down to generation after generation.” The move will protect more than half a million acres of land from development. The announcement of the two new national monuments is hoped to counteract negative feedback received after the Biden administration approved a major oil drilling plan in Alaska, known as Willow. Despite unveiling protections for about 16 million acres of land and water in the region, climate activists continue to protest the president’s decision designed to boost U.S. domestic energy security. Meanwhile, native tribes, environmental groups, and state and local government leaders are applauding the president for his decision to preserve these important ancestral and historic lands.