On Friday, July 10th, President Barack Obama designated three new National Monuments in the Western United States. The designations of new National Monuments in California, Nevada and Texas, raises Obama’s presidential total to 19 National Monuments created or expanded during his White House tenure.
Fridays’ additions included a new 330,000 acre monument at Berryessa Snow Mountain in Northern California, a 700,000 acre National Monument in Nevada, and a small monument in Central Texas where archaeologists have uncovered the remains of two dozen Columbian Mammoths. Columbian mammoths were the largest mammoth species that existed. Their remains are over 65,000 years old.
Obama’s actions on Friday continued to expand the amount of land set aside as National Monuments. Earlier this year, the president set aside land in Illinois, Colorado and Hawaii. In 2014, he expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to nearly half a million square miles, making it the largest marine preserve in the world.
Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents are granted broad authority to declare historically significant sites and ecologically rich areas as monuments, without having to seek congressional approval. In 1978, then President Jimmy Carter, invoked the 1906 Antiquities Act to set aside more than 55 million acres of land in Alaska. Carter designated the most land acreage of any U.S. President. Bill Clinton designated the most National Monuments, adding 19 and expanding three others, but Barack Obama could surpass Clinton’s total by the time he completes his second term.
President Obama is continuing the practice established by his Democratic predecessors, by setting aside some of the nations’ most historically significant and ecologically pristine land so that it is off limits to drilling, mining and other environmentally destructive practices. While there is still plenty of land to be utilized for energy extraction, President Obama is protecting some of America’s most sensitive lands by preserving it for recreational rather than commercial purposes.
President Obama’s environmental record isn’t often highlighted when discussing his presidency. However, by protecting more land as National Monuments, the president is establishing an environmental legacy that he can be proud of. Future generations of Americans who set foot upon land set aside by President Obama, will undoubtedly be grateful for that unsung environmental legacy.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.