As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s effort to better protect, conserve, and restore the lands and waters that sustain the health of communities and power our economy, President Biden is signing three proclamations restoring protections for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monuments. By restoring these national monuments, which were significantly cut back during the previous administration, President Biden is fulfilling a key promise and upholding the longstanding principle that America’s national parks, monuments, and other protected areas are to be protected for all time and for all people.
The President’s protection of these three national monuments is among a series of steps the Administration has taken to restore protections to some of America’s most cherished lands and waters, many of which are sacred to Tribal Nations. The Administration has halted leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, committed to restore protections for the Tongass National Forest under the Roadless Rule, and initiated the process to protect Bristol Bay and the world-class salmon fishery it supports. The Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, the Columbia River Basin, and dozens of other special places are also back on America’s conservation agenda.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s land, water, ocean, and wildlife conservation efforts are critical to solving the climate crisis, protecting public health, promoting wildlife and biodiversity, and rebuilding America’s economy. As part of his Build Back Better Agenda, the President has proposed the creation of a new Civilian Climate Corps, which would partner with unions in putting to work a new generation that looks like America – with good benefits and pay – on the path to family-supporting careers in fields restoring the health of our public lands, coasts, waters, and forests, advancing environmental justice, and helping communities better prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. The President has also set the first-ever national conservation goal, which the Administration is pursuing by supporting locally-led and voluntary conservation efforts across the country and creating more equitable access to the outdoors, including by investing in urban parks.
President Biden’s action to restore Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monuments is consistent with recommendations from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who – with the support of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Justice, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality – reviewed the actions of the previous administration that drastically reduced protections for these places. As part of this review, Biden-Harris Administration leaders met with Members of Congress, state and local government officials, representatives of Tribal Nations, and a wide range of stakeholders. Secretary Haaland also visited Utah to directly meet with local residents and tour the area. After gathering information and input, the Department of the Interior provided the President a report with recommendations on future protection for the areas.
“These protections provide a bridge to our past, but they also build a bridge to a safer, more sustainable future — one where we strengthen our economy and pass on a healthy planet to our children and our grandchildren,” President Biden said at the signing ceremony.
The specific actions that President Biden is taking are:
Restoring the Bears Ears National Monument to the boundaries established by President Obama on December 28, 2016 and retaining protections for an additional 11,200 acres added by President Trump in 2017. Restoring these protections will conserve a multitude of sites that are culturally and spiritually important to Tribal Nations— including petroglyphs, pictographs, cultural sites, dwellings, and areas used for traditional rituals, gatherings, and tribal practices — as well as paleontological objects, landscape features, historic objects, and plant and animal species. Restoring the Monument’s boundaries and conditions restores its integrity, upholds efforts to honor the federal trust responsibility to Tribal Nations, and conserves these lands and waters for future generations. With this action, the total protected area of Bears Ears National Monument is 1.36 million acres.
In restoring the Bears Ears National Monument, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring that there is adequate staffing and resources to appropriately protect the area’s natural and cultural resources, to manage the increased visitation that the area continues to experience, and to make Bears Ears a model for Tribal participation in the management of the Monument. The Bureau of Land Management plans to assign additional rangers to the region; install appropriate signage and infrastructure to inform and support visitors; begin working with local communities, the State of Utah, and Tribal leaders on assessing the potential opportunity for a Bears Ears visitors center that highlights the monument’s cultural resources; and support the Bears Ears Intertribal Commission’s participation in management of the National Monument.
Restoring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the boundaries that were in place on January 20, 2017. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was first protected in 1996, and as described in Proclamation 6920, the landscape holds world-class geological objects of historic or scientific interest, including the Grand Staircase, White and Vermilion Cliffs, Kaiparowits Plateau, Escalante Natural Bridge, Grosvenor Arch, and numerous other enumerated geologic objects. The Monument also contains vast paleontological objects including significant fossils of marine and brackish water mollusks, turtles, crocodilians, lizards, dinosaurs, fishes, and mammals, as well as a host of cultural objects associated with both ancient indigenous cultures and early Latter-Day Saint pioneers, including, but not limited to, petroglyphs and pictographs, occupation sites, campsites, granaries, and trails. The Monument also contains hanging gardens, tinajas, and rock crevice, canyon bottom, and dunal pocket communities, protecting the region’s unusual and diverse soils, endemic plants and pollinators, relic vegetation, and diverse wildlife. Restoring the Monument’s conditions and boundaries will restore its integrity, support the continued scientific exploration as outlined in Proclamation 6920, protect our shared lands and waters for future generations, and continue this administration’s historic efforts to honor the Federal trust responsibility. The total protected area of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is restored to 1.87 million acres.
Restoring protections to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, as established by President Obama on September 15, 2016. The Monument is composed of two units, the Canyons Unit and the Seamounts Unit, each of which showcases unique geological features that anchor vulnerable ecological communities threatened by varied uses, climate change, and related impacts. Under the restored protections, commercial fishing in the National Monument will be prohibited, with fishing for red crab and American lobster to be phased out by September 15, 2023. Consistent with President Obama’s Proclamation 9496, recreational fishing in the National Monument may continue.
The Monument includes Oceanographer, Gilbert, and Lydonia canyons; and Bear, Mytilus, Physalia, and Retriever seamounts. Restoring the Monument’s conditions will restore its integrity, expand the opportunity for unique scientific study and exploration, and protect and preserve natural and cultural resources for all Americans. With this action, the management conditions directed in Proclamation 9496 for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, which is composed of 4,913 square horizontal miles, vertically encompassing the water column above, will resume.
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, today, President Obama is designating three new national monuments honoring our country’s civil rights history and taking new steps to promote diversity in our national parks and other public lands. Building on the Administration’s commitment to protecting places that are culturally and historically significant and that reflect the story of all Americans, today’s designations will protect historic sites in Alabama and South Carolina that played an important role in American history stretching from the Civil War to the civil rights movement.
In addition, President Obama is taking new steps to promote diversity and inclusivity in our nation’s system of national parks, national forests, monuments and other public lands and waters, directing agencies including the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to work to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to experience our great outdoors and engage in decisions about how our public lands and waters are managed, and to prioritize building a more inclusive Federal workforce that is reflective of the diversity of our Nation.
Also, President Obama took action to expand two national monuments: expanding the existing California Coastal National Monument by 6,230 acres; and expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in California and Oregon.
New Civil Rights Monuments
The new monuments are the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Freedom Riders National Monument and Reconstruction Era National Monument.
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument: The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will protect the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama, which served at one point as the headquarters for the civil rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The monument will also tell the stories associated with other nearby Birmingham historic sites, including the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church– which was the site of a bombing in 1963; and Kelly Ingram Park, where Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor turned hoses and dogs on young civil rights protesters.
Freedom Riders National Monument: The Freedom Riders National Monument is located in Anniston, Alabama and contains two sites that help underscore the Freedom Riders’ importance to the civil rights movement. The monument includes the Greyhound Bus Station where a racially integrated bus of Freedom Riders attempting to test desegregation was attacked in the spring of 1961, and the site where the same bus was firebombed and burned some minutes later.
Reconstruction Era National Monument: Located in coastal South Carolina, the newReconstruction Era National Monument encompasses four sites throughout Beaufort County that tell the vibrant story of the robust community developed by freed former African American slaves in the Reconstruction Era South. This designation includes the Brick Baptist Church and Darrah Hall at the existing Penn Center on St. Helena Island as well as the Old Firehouse in downtown Beaufort and parts of Camp Saxton in Port Royal where the Emancipation Proclamation was read on New Year’s Day in 1863. These sites establish the first unit of the National Park System focused on telling the story of Reconstruction.
Protection for these sites is strongly supported by the local communities, elected officials, and a wide variety of stakeholders including civil rights organizations, environmental justice groups and historic preservation groups. Each designation was also supported by legislation introduced by members of the Alabama and South Carolina delegations.
“These monuments preserve the vibrant history of the Reconstruction Era and its role in redefining freedom,” President Obama stated. “They tell the important stories of the citizens who helped launch the civil rights movement in Birmingham and the Freedom Riders whose bravery raised national awareness of segregation and violence. These stories are part of our shared history. From designating Stonewall National Monument, our country’s first national monument honoring the LGBT movement, to recognizing the movement for women’s equality through the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, I have sought to build a more inclusive National Park System and ensure that our national parks, monuments and public lands are fully reflective of our nation’s diverse history and culture.”
Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity in Managing Our Public Lands and Water
In addition, President Obama is taking new steps to promote diversity and inclusivity in our nation’s system of national parks, national forests, monuments and other public lands and waters. Today, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the agencies charged with managing the vast majority of America’s public lands and waters – the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to work to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to experience our great outdoors and engage in decisions about how our public lands and waters are managed. The Memorandum also directs agencies to prioritize building a more inclusive Federal workforce that is reflective of the diversity of our Nation.
Expansion of National Monuments Protecting Natural Resources in California and Oregon
In addition to the new designations honoring African American history, today, President Obama is expanding two existing national monuments to protect critical biodiversity, important historic and natural resources and vital wildlife habitat in California and Oregon.
Expansion of California Coastal National Monument: Today, President Obama is expanding the existing California Coastal National Monument by 6,230 acres to include six additional coastal sites proposed for protection in legislation introduced by members of the California Congressional delegation in 2015. The monument was originally designated in 2000 by President Bill Clinton and expanded by President Obama in 2014 to include Point-Arena-Stornetta in Mendocino County. Today’s expansion will protect incredible coastal natural resources, scenic views, and areas of cultural and historical significance, including sites that provide insight into the Native peoples who first lived along California’s coast and places still important to local tribes today.
Expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: Located in southwest Oregon and northern California, the current Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument protects the significant biodiversity at the intersection of three distinct bioregions, including wildlife habitat for nearly 200 species of birds. Drawing from two different reports compiled by the scientific community as well as a legislation introduced in the Senate in 2015, today’s expansion will protect more than 42,000 additional acres of public land in Oregon and approximately 5,000 acres in California to increase vital habitat connectivity, watershed protection, and landscape-scale resilience for the area’s unique biological values, particularly in the face of growing impacts from climate change.
“Over the last 8 years, I have sought to work with local communities, Tribal governments, businesses, sportsmen, members of Congress and others to protect the most important public lands for the benefit of future generations,” President Obama stated. “Today’s actions will help ensure that more of our country’s history will be preserved and celebrated, and that more of our outdoors will be protected for all to experience and enjoy.”
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (photo by James Watt).
President Obama bestowed a gigantic gift on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service: using his powers under the Antiquities Act, he quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine protected area.
“Building on the United States’ global leadership in marine conservation, today’s designation will more than quadruple the size of the existing marine monument, permanently protecting pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats, and important ecological resources in the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands,” the White House stated.
Following this historic conservation action, the President planned to travel to Hawaii where, on August 31, he will address leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which is being hosted in the United States for the first time. On Thursday, he will travel to Midway Atoll, located within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, to mark the significance of this monument designation and highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our public lands and waters more important than ever.
The monument was originally created in 2006 by President George W. Bush and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Since that time, new scientific exploration and research has revealed new species and deep sea habitats as well as important ecological connections between the existing monument and the adjacent waters. Obama’s designation will expand the existing Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the expanded monument to 582,578 square miles.
The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world — black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years. Additionally, as ocean acidification, warming, and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt, and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems.
The expanded monument area also contains resources of great historical and cultural significance. The expanded area, including the archipelago and its adjacent waters, is considered a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community. It plays a significant role in Native Hawaiian creation and settlement stories, and is used to practice important activities like traditional long-distance voyaging and wayfinding. Additionally, within the monument expansion area, there are shipwrecks and downed aircraft from the Battle of Midway in World War II, a battle that marked a major shift in the progress of the war in favor of the Allies.
All commercial resource extraction activities, including commercial fishing and any future mineral extraction, are prohibited in the expansion area, as they are within the boundaries of the existing monument. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, is allowed in the expansion area by permit, as is scientific research.
In recognition of the value of Papahānaumokuākea to Native Hawaiians, and in keeping with President Obama’s commitment to elevating the voices of Native peoples in management of our resources, Secretary of the Interior Jewell and Secretary of Commerce Pritzker also announced that the Departments will soon sign an agreement with Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs providing for a greater management role as a trustee in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. This arrangement has been previously requested by Senator Brian Schatz and Governor Ige.
President Obama’s action responds to a proposal put forward by Senator Schatz and prominent Native Hawaiian leaders, in addition to significant input and local support from Hawaii elected officials, cultural groups, conservation organizations, scientists and fishermen. This step also builds on a rich tradition of marine protection in Hawaiian waters and world-class, well managed fisheries, including a longline fishing fleet that is a global leader in sustainable practices.
Among the underlying rationales for his action, Obama, in his proclamation, stated, “The ocean will always be seen as an integral part of cultural identity for the Native Hawaiian community. The deep sea, the ocean surface, the sky, and all the living things in the area adjacent to the Monument are important to this culture and are deeply rooted in creation and settlement stories. Native Hawaiian culture considers the Monument and the adjacent area a sacred place. This place contains the boundary between Ao, the world of light and the living, and Pō, the world of the gods and spirits from which all life is born and to which ancestors return after death. Long-distance voyaging and wayfinding is one of the most unique and valuable traditional practices that the Native Hawaiian community has developed and continues to advance. Once on the verge of cultural extinction, new double-hulled sailing canoes, beginning with the Hōkūle’a in the 1970s, are bringing voyaging and wayfinding to new generations. This traditional practice relies on celestial, biological, and natural signs, such as winds, waves, currents and the presence of birds and marine life. The open ocean ecosystem and its natural resources in the adjacent area play an important role within the cultural voyaging seascape within the Hawaiian Archipelago.”
In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history, President Obama has sought to lead the world in marine conservation by combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, revitalizing the process for establishing new marine sanctuaries, establishing the National Ocean Policy, and promoting ocean stewardship through the use of science- based decision making.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded President Obama’s historic designation of the Stonewall National Monument, the first national monument that honors the history of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the United States. The designation permanently protects the site that played a pivotal role in the nation’s LGBT civil rights movement.
Secretary Jewell joined members of the New York Congressional delegation and other federal, state and local officials and LGBT community members at the monument site for a public dedication ceremony.
“This designation ensures that the story of the courageous individuals who stood up for basic rights for LGBT Americans will be forever told, honoring their sacrifice and inspiring our Nation towards greater tolerance and understanding,” said Secretary Jewell. “The tragic events in Orlando are a sad and stark reminder that the struggle for civil rights and equality continues – where who we love is respected and honored – on our march toward a more perfect union.”
The new monument is located at Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, an event that inspired the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
The monument designation today is the result of a year-long effort led by U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, who introduced legislative proposals in Congress to establish a Stonewall National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System. Separately, in a letter to President Obama, Representative Nadler, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, and other members of the New York congressional delegation requested that the President use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate Stonewall a national monument. State Senator Brad Hoylman and State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, worked together to donate the land to the federal government and make the designation possible.
“The National Park Service is marking its centennial anniversary this year with a renewed commitment to tell a more complete story of our nation, and we are incredibly proud to be entrusted with the responsibility to share the story of LGBT Americans through this historic new national park site at Stonewall National Monument,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We will work closely with the community to ensure that the history we share at this site is inclusive and gives a complete perspective of the historic events that happened there.”
Immediately following President Obama’s designation, the National Park Foundation announced that it will conduct a fundraising campaign to support the effort to prepare the National Park Service’s 412th site to welcome visitors.
The Stonewall Inn, located across from the newly designated national park site, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1999 and subsequently, with Christopher Park and the surrounding streets and sidewalks, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000, recognizing the significance of the events that took place in the late 1960s. The Stonewall Inn was the first LGBT site to ever be designated a National Historic Landmark.
In February of this year, the National Park Service finalized a reconnaissance study that concluded that additional evaluation would likely find that the Stonewall site meets the new unit criteria for inclusion in the National Park System.
In April, the Governor of New York signed state legislation that authorized the City of New York to transfer Christopher Park to the Federal Government, and the City then approved that transfer, paving the way for the site’s designation as a national monument.
In May, nearly 250 people gathered at PS 41 Greenwich Village School to express their views about designating Christopher Park as a national monument. The two and half hour public meeting attracted state and local elected officials, veterans of the Stonewall Uprising, as well as modern-day LGBT advocates, neighbors and preservationists. The majority of speakers enthusiastically expressed support for a Stonewall monument designation.
New additions to the National Park System can be accomplished by an act of Congress or by presidential designation. In Congress, a bill can be introduced to designate an area as a national park unit. That bill must then be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then signed into law by the president.
A unit of the National Park System can also be created through the use of the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to designate a site as a national monument. Since the enactment of the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, 16 presidents have used the authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients and more than 140 national monuments. Almost half of the national parks in the National Park System today were first protected as national monuments under the Antiquities Act.
With today’s designation, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 24 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland (now a National Historical Park in Maryland and New York), and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
Last year the Obama Administration recognized the Henry Gerber House in Chicago as a National Historic Landmark and since 2011 eight other LGBT sites have been named to the National Register of Historic Places including:
On this year’s Equal Pay Day, April 12, President Obama is designating a new national monument at a historic location in Washington, D.C., to honor the movement for women’s equality. The new Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument will protect the iconic house that has served as the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party since 1929. From this house, known in recent years as the Sewall-Belmont House, members of the Party led the movement for women’s equality, authoring more than 600 pieces of federal, state and local legislation in support of equal rights.
The designation will permanently protect one of the oldest standing houses near the U.S. Capitol and help preserve an extensive archival collection that documents the history, strategies, tactics and accomplishments of the movement to secure women’s suffrage and equal rights in the United States and across the globe.
The new monument is named for former Party president, activist and suffragist Alva Belmont (known also as Alva Vanderbilt), who was a major benefactor of the National Woman’s Party, and Alice Paul, who founded the Party and was the chief strategist and leader in the Party’s ongoing fight for women’s political, social, and economic equality.
After playing an instrumental role in the passage and ratification of the 19thAmendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage, Paul led the Party’s advocacy work from the house, including drafting updated Equal Rights Amendment text, writing provisions that were later included in the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, and working to get women’s equality language incorporated in the U.N. Charter. A fierce advocate for women’s equality her entire life, Paul died in 1977 at the age of ninety-two.
Efforts to protect the site date back to the early 1970s, and more recent proposals to include the site in the National Park System have garnered Congressional support – including bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Mikulski – as well as strong support from local elected officials, community leaders, women’s organizations, conservation groups and historians. The National Park Foundation will announce that David Rubenstein is contributing $1 million dollars to support the site and address immediate restoration needs.
In 1997, the National Woman’s Party became an educational organization and today, seeks to educate the public about the ongoing women’s rights equality movement.
In addition to protecting more land and water than any President in history – more than 265 million acres – President Obama has sought to protect places that are diverse, culturally and historically significant, and that reflect the story of all Americans. By honoring the history and accomplishments of the movement for women’s equality, tomorrow’s designation will build on this effort towards a more inclusive National Park System and tell the story of women’s fight for equality for generations to come. Our national parks and other protected sites that represent America’s diverse history and culture will continue to be an important priority for the Administration as the country celebrates the National Park Service Centennial this year.
President Obama has designated three new national monuments in the California desert, encompassing nearly 1.8 million acres of America’s public lands. Building on the Administration’s commitment to protect our land and water for future generations, today’s designations will nearly double the number of acres of public lands previously protected as national monuments by President Obama–– demonstrating the Administration’s strong commitment to aggressive action to protect the environment for future generations.
In addition to permanently protecting incredible natural resources, wildlife habitat and unique historic and cultural sites, and providing recreational opportunities for a burgeoning region, the monuments will support climate resiliency in the region and further advance the President’s unprecedented work to address climate change. The new monuments link already protected lands, including Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and 15 congressionally-designated Wilderness areas, permanently protecting key wildlife corridors and providing plants and animals with the space and elevation range that they will need in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The new monuments, located in San Bernardino and Riverside counties about one hour from the Los Angeles metropolitan area and one hour from the Las Vegas metropolitan area, protect approximately 1.8 million acres of spectacular landscapes, fragile wildlife habitat, unique historic resources, and important cultural sites. The three designations connect Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest, and fifteen wilderness areas previously designated by Congress, creating a series of protected lands stretching hundreds of miles. The monuments protect current uses of the land, including military training operations, off-highway vehicle recreation, transportation, utility corridors, and existing mining operations.
The monuments announced today are the result of nearly two decades of leadership by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein to craft legislation to protect the special places of the California desert. In October, senior Administration officials visited Palm Springs, California, at the Senator’s invitation to hear from the community about its vision for conservation in the California desert. Supporters of protecting these areas include local counties and cities, area business groups, tribes, hunters, anglers, faith-based organizations, recreationists, local land trusts and conservation groups, and students from local schools.
“The California desert is a cherished and irreplaceable resource for the people of southern California,” said Secretary Jewell. “It is an oasis of nature’s quiet beauty just outside two of our nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Its historic and cultural resources tell the stories of armies, travelers, ranchers, and miners, and of the original caretakers of this land. Today’s designation by the President furthers the longstanding work of public land managers and local communities to ensure these areas will remain preserved and accessible to the public for future generations.”
“Sand to Snow’s peaks and valleys have long provided physical and spiritual sustenance to native people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today, they are also an inspiration and recreational beacon to millions. We are honored to ensure the permanent protection of these cherished places.”
The national monuments, comprised exclusively of existing federal lands, will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service and by the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The proclamations direct the agencies to engage the public in comprehensive planning for the management of these areas, building upon the provisions outlined in the proclamations. The three designations all honor valid existing rights, and provide for continued use for training activities of the U.S. military.
The Sand to Snow National Monument encompasses approximately 154,000 acres of federal lands, including just over 100,000 acres of already Congressionally-designated wilderness, east of Los Angeles, California, and will be managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Rising from the floor of the Sonoran Desert to San Gorgonio Peak, the tallest in southern California, the monument includes lush desert oases, significant archeological sites, and thirty miles of the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail. The area is a favorite for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and even skiing. The area is renowned for its rich diversity of rare and fragile wildlife and is one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California.
The Mojave Trails National Monument spans 1.6 million acres of federal lands, including more than 350,000 acres of already Congressionally-designated wilderness, managed by the Bureau of Land Management between Barstow and Needles, California. It is a stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes. The monument contains the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66 and some of the best preserved sites from the World War II-era Desert Training Center. Connecting the Mojave National Preserve with Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Trails National Monument ensures the biological connectivity of this landscape while preserving traditional uses such hunting and off-highway vehicle recreation.
The Castle Mountains National Monument consists of approximately 21,000 acres of federal land surrounded by the existing Mojave National Preserve and will be managed by the National Park Service. An integral piece of the Mojave Desert, the area has important flora, fauna, water, and historic resources, and its designation as a national monument helps to preserve related resources set aside for protection in the Preserve. The monument has some of the finest Joshua tree forest and native desert grassland in the Mojave Desert and contains important cultural resources including Native American archeological sites and vestiges of mining, ranching, and the railroad from the period of western expansion.
Today’s announcement brings to twenty-two the number of national monuments established by President Obama under the Antiquities Act, an authority exercised by sixteen presidents starting with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and used to protect treasures such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients. Altogether, President Obama has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – and has preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history.
Following decades of local input and leadership from Senator Dianne Feinstein, today’s designation’s will enhance the region’s economic activity by attracting visitors, increasing tourism, and ensuring public access for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and other outdoor recreation activities for generations to come. Permanent protection for the three new national monuments is strongly supported by local governments, tribes, business groups, elected officials, community leaders, and a variety of stakeholders including faith leaders, sportsmen, historians, conservationists and others. Additionally, the designations complement an ongoing planning process for renewable energy development on public lands in the California desert and furthers the longstanding work with public land managers and local communities to protect these lands for future generations.
Every Kid in a Park
In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history – more than 265 million acres – the President has sought to ensure that all Americans and future generations have the opportunity to experience the natural and cultural richness of our national parks, monuments, forests and other public lands. Nearly a year ago, the President announced the launch of the Every Kid in a Park program to give every 4th grader in America free access to visit the country’s unparalleled public lands, and over the course of the next year, the Administration will continue to encourage all Americans to “find your park” and experience firsthand the wonder of America’s great outdoors. Moreover, the Administration is working to galvanize public and private support to achieve the goals of Every Kid in a Park and boost additional efforts to connect more underserved youth with nature.
Inspired by the Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors and by the President’s trip to Alaska last summer, IslandWood, the Sierra Club, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, and action sports retailer Zumiez are today announcing a new project called “Fresh Tracks.” Their independent project will provide two dozen youth from underserved Los Angeles and Alaska Native communities with opportunities to travel together to both areas and explore diverse cultures and outdoors over a three-week period in August. Their project is particularly focused on working with communities responding to the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, a call to action by President Obama for cities, Tribal Nations, towns, and counties to build and execute robust cradle-to-college-and-career plans to ensure that all young people—no matter who they are or where they come from—can achieve their full potential. The President’s actions today are protecting important public lands, and efforts like Fresh Tracks and Every Kid in a Park will work to ensure that our country’s youth are able to visit and enjoy these types of cultural and natural areas.
President Obama went home to Chicago to launch the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that will provide all fourth grade students and their familieswith free admission to National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year.
At the same time, the President announced the creation of three new National Monuments across the country, including the Pullman National Monument in Illinois, a location iconic for its history of labor unrest and civil rights advances, which will be Chicago’s first National Park Service (NPS) unit; Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii, the site of an internment camp where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II, and Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado, an historic site of extraordinary beauty with world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe.
“Together, these monuments will help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans,” the White House said.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks and our monuments, our lands, our waters — these places are the birthright of all Americans,” President Obama said.
But of the three, the Pullman National Monument has special significance for the President, not just for its importance to the labor movement and the civil rights movement. As he related the story:
“This place has been a milestone in our journey toward a more perfect union,” President Obama said.
“So this site is at the heart of what would become America’s Labor Movement — and as a consequence, at the heart of what would become America’s middle class. And bit by bit, we expanded this country’s promise to more Americans. But too many still lived on the margins of that dream.
“The white workers who built Pullman’s rail cars won new rights. But those rights were not extended to the black porters who worked on these cars — the former slaves, and sons and grandsons who made beds and carried luggage and folded sheets and shined shoes. And they worked as many as 20 hours a day on less than three hours’ sleep just for a couple dollars a day. Porters who asked for a living wage, porters who asked for better hours or better working conditions were told they were lucky to have a job at all. If they continued to demand better conditions, they were fired. It seemed hopeless to try and change the status quo.
“But a few brave men and women saw things differently. And one summer night in 1925, porters packed a hall in Harlem, and a young man there named A. Philip Randolph led the meeting. And what A. Philip Randolph said was, “What this is about,” he said, “is making you master of your economic fate.” Making you master of your economic fate. And so he and others organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters around the strategy that he would employ throughout his life: “If you stand firm and hold your ground, in the long run you’ll win.”
“That was easier said than done. Over the years, Brotherhood leaders and supporters were fired, they were harassed. But true to A. Philip Randolph’s call, they stood firm, they held their ground. And 12 years to the day after A. Philip Randolph spoke in that hall in Harlem, they won, and Pullman became the first large company in America to recognize a union of black workers.
“And this was one of the first great victories in what would become the Civil Rights Movement. It wouldn’t be the last victory. It was his union that allowed A. Philip Randolph to pressure President Roosevelt to desegregate the defense industry. It was those Pullman porters who gave the base by which A. Philip Randolph could convince President Truman to desegregate the Armed Forces. It was those porters who helped lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, who were the central organizers of the March on Washington.
“And that’s not just the story of a movement, that’s the story of America. Because as Americans, we believe that workers’ rights are civil rights. That dignity and opportunity aren’t just gifts to be handed down by a generous government or by a generous employer; they are rights given by God, as undeniable and worth protecting as the Grand Canyon or the Great Smoky Mountains. …
“That’s the story of this place — that, together, we can do great things that we cannot accomplish alone. That’s why today I’m designating Chicago’s Pullman District as America’s newest national monument. I want this younger generation, I want future generations to come learn about their past. Because I guarantee you there are a lot of young people right here in Chicago, just a few blocks away, living in this neighborhood who may not know that history.
“I want future generations to know that while the Pullman porters helped push forward our rights to vote, and to work, and to live as equals, their legacy goes beyond even that. These men and women without rank, without wealth or title, became the bedrock of a new middle class. These men and women gave their children and grandchildren opportunities they never had.
“Here in Chicago, one of those porter’s great-granddaughter had the chance to go to a great college and a great law school, and had the chance to work for the mayor, and had the chance to climb the ladder of success and serve as a leader in some of our cities’ most important institutions. And I know that because today she’s the First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama.
“So to the young people here today, that’s what I hope you take away from this place. It is right that we think of our national monuments as these amazing vistas, and mountains, and rivers. But part of what we’re preserving here is also history. It’s also understanding that places that look ordinary are nothing but extraordinary. The places you live are extraordinary, which means you can be extraordinary. You can make something happen, the same way these workers here at Pullman made something happen. (Applause.)
“Because for all the progress that we’ve made — and we have made a lot of progress — our moral revolution is unfinished. And it’s up to each of us to protect that promise of America, and expand that promise of opportunity for all people. That long march has never be easy. This place, historic Pullman, teaches us we have to keep standing firm and together. That’s the story of who we are. That’s the story of our past. And I have no doubt that we will pass the torch from generation to generation so that it is the story of our future as well.”
Pullman National Monument in Illinois:
This monument will preserve and highlight America’s first planned industrial town, and a site that tells important stories about the social dynamics of the industrial revolution, of American opportunity and discrimination, and of the rise of labor unions and the struggle for civil rights and economic opportunity for African Americans and other minorities. The 203-acre site includes factories and buildings associated with the Pullman Palace Car Company, which was founded in 1867 and employed thousands of workers to construct and provide service on railroad cars. While the Pullman Company employed a mostly white workforce to manufacture railroad passenger cars, it also recruited the first porters, waiters and maids from the population of former slaves to serve on its luxury cars. Though lower-paying, these service jobs held prestige in the African-American community and played a major role in the rise of the African-American middle class and, through an historic labor agreement, the development of the civil rights movement of the 20th Century. The historic labor movement organized by A. Philip Randolph in the 1930s to win rights for these porters, waiters and maids ultimately created the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first labor union led by African Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation.
The National Park Foundation announced that nearly $8 million dollars has already been raised to support the monument, which will be Chicago’s first National Park Service unit and will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (http://pullmanil.org/nps.html).
Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado:
This monument will protect a stunning section of Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley. Located in Chaffee County near the town of Salida, Colorado, the 21,586-acre monument features rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and mountain vistas that are home to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Members of Congress, local elected officials, conservation advocates, and community members have worked for more than a decade to protect the area, which hosts world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe for hiking, whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing. In addition to supporting this vibrant outdoor recreation economy, the designation will protect the critical watershed and honor existing water rights and uses, such as grazing and hunting. The monument will be cooperatively managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and USDA’s National Forest Service.
Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii:
This monument permanently protects a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II. Located on the island of Oahu, the monument will help tell the difficult story of the internment camp’s impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict. Honouliuli Internment Camp, located in a steep canyon not far from Pearl Harbor, opened in March, 1943 and was the largest and longest-used confinement site for Japanese and European Americans and resident immigrants in Hawaii, eventually holding 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war. The camp was largely forgotten until uncovered in 2002, and the President’s designation will ensure its stories are told for generations. The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.
Every Kid in a Park
In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors. \
“Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people now devote an average of more than seven hours a day to electronic media use, or about 53 hours a week – more than a full time job.
“America’s public lands and waters offer space to get outside and get active, and are living classrooms that provide opportunities to build critical skills through hands-on activities.”
To inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer, the Obama Administration will provide all 4th grade students and their families free admission to all National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The initiative will also:
Make it easy for schools and families to plan trips: The Administration will distribute information and resources to make it easy for teachers and families to identify nearby public lands and waters and to find programs that support youth outings.
Provide transportation support to schools with the most need: As an integral part of this effort, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – is expanding and re-launching its Ticket to Ride program as Every Kid in a Park, which will award transportation grants for kids to visit parks, public lands and waters, focusing on schools that have the most need.
Provide educational materials: The initiative will build on a wide range of educational programs and tools that the federal land management agencies already use. For example, NPS has re-launched a website with over 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans, and field trip guides. And a number of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Education, and NPS participate in Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms and agency resources that connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers with public lands and waterways.
To further support this effort, the President’s 2016 Budget includes a total increased investment of $45 million for youth engagement programs throughout the Department of the Interior, with $20 million specifically provided to the National Park Service for youth activities, including bringing 1 million fourth-grade children from low-income areas to national parks. This increase will also fund dedicated youth coordinators to help enrich children and family learning experiences at parks and online.
‘Conservation, a Truly American Idea’
The President, standing near the site of the historic Pullman town in Chicago, said, “For a century, rangers, and interpreters, and volunteers and visitors have kept alive what the writer Wallace Stegner once called ‘the best idea we ever had’ — our belief that the country’s most special places should belong not just to the rich, not just to the powerful, but belong to everybody — not just now, but for all time.
“Conservation is a truly American idea. The naturalists and industrialists and politicians who dreamt up our system of public lands and waters did so in the hope that, by keeping these places, these special places in trust — places of incomparable beauty, places where our history was written — then future generations would value those places the same way as we did. It would teach us about ourselves, and keep us grounded and keep us connected to what it means to be American. And it’s one of our responsibilities, as Americans, to protect this inheritance and to strengthen it for the future.
“And that’s why I’ve used my authority to set aside more public lands and waters than any President in history. (Applause.) And that’s why, starting next month, we’re going to encourage every American to “Find Your Park,” because chances are, there’s one closer than you think.”
Antiquities Act Under Threat of ‘No New National Parks’ Legislation
The Antiquities Act was first exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients.
With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 16 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
However, the Republican-led Congress has moved to undermine the President’s authority to designate national monuments.
“Since 1906, presidents of both parties have used this legislation to protect sites, objects, and landscapes of historic, cultural, or scientific interest on federally-owned or controlled property,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation stated. “Some of America’s most iconic places were first protected by presidential national monument designations, including the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon and Acadia. Recent designations such as Fort Monroe, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, the César E. Chávez National Monument — and now Pullman — demonstrate just how critical the Antiquities Act is to protecting America’s diverse historic and cultural sites.
“Now, only two months into 114th Congress, seven bills have already been introduced that would weaken, restrict or add burdensome requirements to the president’s use of the Antiquities Act. These bills pose a serious threat to the future preservation of America’s most important and beloved places.”
With the stroke of a pen, President Obama expanded the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, one of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world, to six times its current size, resulting in 370,000 square nautical miles (490,000 square miles) of protected area around these tropical islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean, making it the largest marine reserve in the world that is completely off limits to commercial resource extraction including commercial fishing.
Expanding the Monument, which was first designated by George W. Bush on January 6, 2009, will more fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.
Commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities, such as deep sea mining, are banned in the Monument. But in recognition of the importance of encouraging and supporting access to federally managed areas, recreational and traditional fishing consistent with the conservation goals of the Monument will continue to be allowed in the expanded Monument.
“An ocean paradise teeming with rare marine life and birds surrounding atolls and reefs about 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, the newly-expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument further protects those ecosystems and their creatures—some of which are found nowhere else on earth,” the Wilderness Society wrote.
“Safeguarding these islands and their underwater ecosystems will help ensure the survival and recovery of several threatened and endangered species such as leatherback turtles, blue and humpback whales, whitetip sharks, and yellowfin tuna. The islands attract millions of migratory seabirds and the coral reefs in this area are full of colorful fish and anemones.
“The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is like the Galapagos Islands in terms of the significance of this habitat for wildlife and its value for scientific research. The expansion of the monument garnered overwhelming support from scientists, businesses and conservation groups.”
The recently released National Climate Assessment confirms that climate change is causing sea levels and ocean temperatures to rise. Changing temperatures can harm coral reefs and force certain species to migrate. In addition, carbon pollution is being absorbed by the oceans, causing them to acidify, which can damage coastal shellfish beds and reefs, altering entire marine ecosystems. To date, the acidity of our ocean is changing 50 times faster than any known change in millions of years.
In response to this growing threat, the President announced in June his commitment to use his authority to protect some of our most precious marine landscape just like he has for our mountains, rivers, and forests. The Administration identified expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument as an area of particular interest because science has shown that large marine protected areas can help rebuild biodiversity, support fish populations, and improve overall ecosystem resilience.
To meet the President’s commitment, the Administration examined how to expand protections near the Monument and considered the input of fishermen, scientists, conservation experts, elected officials, and other stakeholders, including through a town hall meeting and over 170,000 comments submitted electronically.
The expanded Monument will include over 130 newly protected sea mounts, which are hotspots of biodiversity that harbor uncounted numbers of new and unique marine species. The expansion will better protect the habitat of animals with large migration and foraging ranges that stretch throughout the area, including sea turtles, marine mammals, and manta rays. The Monument is also home to millions of seabirds that forage over hundreds of miles and bring food back to their rookeries on the islands and atolls. These birds serve as a conveyor belt of energy bringing nutrients caught at sea back into the near shore environment where they help sustain the ecosystems.
This proclamation builds on the Administration’s efforts to protect both our lands and our oceans. Early in his first term, President Obama launched the National Ocean Policy to harmonize the implementation of more than 100 laws that govern our oceans and create a coordinated, science-based approach to managing the many resources and uses of our coasts and oceans.
In June, President Obama launched a series of executive actions to increase protections for the ocean, including combating black market fishing, establishing a pathway to new marine sanctuaries, and understanding the impacts of ocean acidification. The President has also designated 11 other national monuments across the United States to permanently protect sites that are significant to our nation’s rich history and natural heritage.
The expanded monument will continue to be managed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration respectively. The Agencies will develop management plans pursuant to their respective authorities under the Antiquities Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Management Act, and other relevant authorities to ensure proper care and management of the Monument.
First exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the authority of the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents since 1906 to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients.