In 1906, Congress passed the Antiquities Act, which allowed the president to create National Monuments, as opposed to National Parks, which could only be created by Congress. The act was intended to allow for quick protection of land, particularly to allow the government to protect archeological sites that were being looted by pot hunters. It was the second step, after the invention of National Parks, in the creation of a system that would still not have its own managing agency until the Park Service would be created ten years later in 1916. Concerning restrictions on the use of land, it was also the second step in a series of protections that would culminate in the Wilderness Act in 1964.
The Antiquities Act was also a bold expansion of executive powers concerning the removal of land from private or “wise use” (e.g., National Forests) enterprises. President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act into law on June 8, was not shy about using it. Roosevelt would ultimately declare fifty National Monuments, six of which (including Grand Canyon, Pinnacles, and Olympic) would later be upgraded to National Parks. The presidential power embedded in the Antiquities Act remains controversial, with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives within the past two years voting to hobble the act by making National Monuments subject to congressional approval.Continue reading