Environmentalists were delighted when President Obama signed proclamations on March 25, designating land in five states around the country as new National Monuments. He did this by using the 1906 Antiquities Act, which enables him to bypass Congress.
The monuments protect and honor the San Juan Islands in Washington state; Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Maryland; Charles Young, the leader of the “Buffalo Soldiers” in Ohio; the Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico; and the state of Delaware.
A National Monument in the U.S. differs from a National Park in that the President can quickly declare an area to be a National Monument without the approval of Congress. National Monuments also receive less funding and afford fewer protections to wildlife than do National Parks.
“These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country,” Obama said in a statement. “By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come.”
Republicans were quick to point out that the President had acted in the midst of automatic budget cuts created by the sequestration.
From USA Today:
“The Obama administration not only sees the sequester as an opportunity to make automatic spending reductions as painful as possible on the American people, it’s also a good time for the president to dictate under a century-old law that the government spend money it doesn’t have on property it doesn’t even own,” (Representative Doc) Hastings said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the initial costs associated with the new monuments are minimal.
The White House provided the following descriptions of the five new monuments created Monday:
San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington (Seen above.) Home to bald eagles, orca whales, harbor seals and other rare species, the San Juan Islands is a chain of 450 islands, rocks and pinnacles. Located in Washington State’s Puget Sound, the archipelago provides an opportunity for visitors, campers, kayakers and birdwatchers to experience the natural beauty of the undeveloped, rugged landscape.
Photo Credit: BruceandLetty
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland
The monument commemorates the life of of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who was responsible for helping enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom. The new national park, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad.
Photo Credit: Wanderdrossel
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio
The monument will preserve the home of Col. Charles Young (1864–1922), a distinguished officer in the United States Army who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of colonel.
Photo Credit: BLM New Mexico
Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico
Located northwest of Taos, the Río Grande del Norte contains stretches of the Río Grande Gorge and extinct volcanoes that rise from the Taos Plateau. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities — like rafting, fishing and hiking — and serves as important habitat for many birds and wildlife.
Photo Credit: downthestretch53
First State National Monument in Delaware
The monument will tell the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, as well as Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the Constitution. The park is comprised of three historic areas related to Delaware’s rich history: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the courthouse, Green and Sheriff’s House), and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley.
So for now President Obama is stepping up to the plate by protecting these acres from development. Let’s hope he keeps up the good work and chooses to block the Keystone Pipeline.
Meanwhile, let’s all get out and enjoy the spectacular beauty of our National Monuments and National Parks!
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Photo Credit: PatrickMcNally