America's Antiquities Act Makes History with Five New National Monuments

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Denise Ryan, Director, Public Lands Policy

Rio Grande del Norte (Ute Mtn.) Credit: Adriel Heisey
Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Just a few days out from the beginning of the baseball season in Washington, D.C., President Obama batted in a Grand Slam with the establishment of five new national monuments. This is the first time the President has designated more than one national monument in a day, and every single one of them is rich in historic or cultural resources.

The largest national monument established was the Río Grande Del Norte National Monument, which is a 242,000-acre cultural landscape representing 11,000 years of diverse history of northern New Mexico.

Most preservationists are familiar with landscapes like historic towns or a historic battlefield like Gettysburg. But instead of representing a single battle or time period, the thousands of cultural sites within Río Grande Del Norte National Monument tell the story of hundreds of generations living, hunting, exploring, and homesteading in this rugged landscape.

Harriet Tubman portrait. Credit: H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress
Harriet Tubman

In the case of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, the landscape represents the lifetime of famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the rural Maryland landscape where she worked as a slave from her childhood until she escaped to freedom when she was 27 years old. Later she returned to this landscape over a dozen times to help move others to freedom.

The National Trust has supported the preservation and interpretation of Harriet Tubman’s legacy for more than a decade, including providing financial support to benefit many of the sites associated with her life.

We applaud the President’s continued support and use of this important law which has protected a vast array of natural, historic, and cultural treasures, from the Statue of Liberty to Chaco Canyon. These sites and landscapes make up the diverse tapestry of our American history, and the National Trust has worked hard to support and defend the Antiquities Act so that it may continue to protect America’s important places.

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Colonel Charles Young House. Credit: WikiMedia Commons
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

The Charles Young National Monument near Wilburforce, Ohio, is the site of the family home of Col. Charles Young, who was the third African-American to graduate from West Point and the first to reach the rank of colonel; he also served as a Buffalo Soldier and was the first African American National Park superintendent. The National Monument recognizes and honors a significant part of African American and American military history. It will be managed by the National Park Service.

First State National Monument

The First State National Monument is the first area to be managed by the National Park Service in the State of Delaware. The approximately 1,100-acre monument contains a variety of historic sites associated with early Dutch, Swedish and English settlement and Delaware’s role in the birth of the nation as the first state to ratify the Constitution. A small portion of the monument is also located in southeastern Pennsylvania. It will be managed by the National Park Service.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument

Harriet Tubman National Monument is located in Dorchester County, Md. and includes a 480-acre property donated by the Conservation Fund known as the Jacob Jackson Home Site. Jacob Jackson was a free black who used coded letters to help famous abolitionist Tubman communicate with her family and rescue her brothers from slavery. The site is adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and will be managed by the National Park Service.

San Juan Islands, Patos Island Light. Credit: Tom Reeve
Patos Island Light, San Juan Islands National Monument

San Juan Islands National Monument

The San Juan Islands National Monument consists of nearly 1,000 acres spread across 75 sites including numerous historic and cultural sites including the Patos Island Lighthouse and the Turn Point Light Station; historic homesteads, a kelp mill, reef-net cabins, and archeological sites dating 3,000 years of human occupation of the islands. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that recreation contributes $22.5 billion to Washington’s economy and supports more than 226,000 jobs. Protecting the historic and natural beauty and recreational opportunities that attract residents, visitors and businesses to the San Juan Islands is vital to a vibrant local economy. It will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Río Grande del Norte National Monument

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is a quarter-million-acre cultural landscape with thousands of archaeological and historic sites spanning 11,000 years of human occupation including the historic landscape of the “North Branch” of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail which runs just to the east of the monument. A recent economic study by BBC Research & Consulting estimates an additional $15 million in economic value annually following the designation. It will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

See National Trust President Stephanie K. Meeks' statement on these historic designations.

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