President Trump recently asked for a review of at least two dozen national monuments created by Presidential Proclamation since 1996. This executive order puts the monuments at risk of losing their federally protected status. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, either Congress or the President can protect federal lands by designating them a national monument. No president has ever reversed the status for existing monuments, so Trump’s order could be the first. Make sure you visit these ten protected landmarks before it’s too late.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
In southern Utah is a series of stair-like plateaus found at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is 200 million years old and about the size of Delaware. President Clinton designated the monument in 1996, protecting 1.7 million acres that descend from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon. The staircase is the result of sedimentary erosion, and the area is popular with hikers and backpackers.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Located in the southwestern region of Colorado is the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument; it encompasses 176,000 acres of federal land that was designated in 2000 by Presidential Proclamation. Administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, with over 6,000 individual archaeological sites identified as of 2005. These sites show evidence of former human inhabitants, including the Northern Ancestral Puebloan culture. In the different areas, some of which have more than 100 sites per square mile, there are villages, field houses, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and shrines.
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
First protected under President Bush, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii was then expanded in 2016 by President Obama. The monument is not only the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area in the US, but it is also one of the biggest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses more than 580,000 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers) of the Pacific Ocean, which is a larger area than all of the country’s national parks combined. The area is home to 7,000 species that include endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, sharks, and black coral.
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
In northern New Mexico is the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which was proclaimed a national monument in 2013 by President Obama, under the Antiquities Act. The monument consists of 242,500 acres of public land, much of which is rugged, wide open plains that reach an average elevation of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters). Evidence of ancient human activity is visible in the area via petroglyphs, dwelling sites, and abandoned homesteads. Some of the animals to call the monument home are elk, deer, golden eagles, and bighorn sheep. The monument is also home to Ute Mountain, which reaches 10,093 feet (3,060 meters).
Giant Sequoia National Monument
More than 30 lesser-known groves are protected within California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument, which includes about half of the sequoia groves still standing. The monument, covering 824 square miles (1,326 square kilometers), was created by President Bill Clinton in Proclamation in 2000. The world’s largest living tree, the General Sherman Tree, stands within the park, and Kings River Canyon, which is one of the deepest canyons in North America, also calls the park home.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
The 294,000-acre Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona protects not just the Vermilion Cliffs but also the Paria Plateau, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. The colorful cliffs are steep, eroded escarpments that mostly consist of sandstone, limestone, siltstone, and shale. People have seen more than 20 species of raptors at the monument, including bald eagles, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons. Experts also recently re-introduced the endangered California condor to the region due to the lack of human habitation. The Welsh’s milkweed, a plant species that grows on sand dunes, is known to exist only in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and one other area in neighboring Utah.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
The Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains and Dona Ana Mountains make up the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Located near Las Cruces, New Mexico, President Obama established the monument in 2014. The protected area includes the four mountain ranges, all of which are part of the Chihuahuan Desert. The monument contains historic sites such as the Potrillo volcanic field where American astronauts trained for lunar missions in the ’60s, Geronimo’s Cave, the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, World War II aerial targets, and thousands of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs.
Gold Butte National Monument
Covering nearly 350,000 acres, Gold Butte National Monument, designated a monument by President Obama in 2016, lies in Nevada. The same geologic forces that created the Grand Canyon formed this monument, exposing red sandstone, alcoves and twisting slot canyons. The area is home to animals such as bighorn sheep, mule deer, and quail and offers visitors opportunities for hiking and bird-watching. Shelters and petroglyphs dating back more than 12,000 years are also found throughout the area.
Hanford Reach National Monument
Created in 2000 by Presidential Proclamation under the American Antiquities Act, Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington is named after the Hanford Reach, the last non-tidal section of the Columbia River. It is one of two national monuments administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The number of rare or endangered animal species that call the area home is 48; there are also several insect species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
Sonoran Desert National Monument
Made up of saguaro cactus and three mountain ranges, the Sonoran Desert National Monument lies in southern Arizona. It is North America’s most biologically diverse desert and home to several federally listed endangered species. The purpose of the monument is not to attract visitors but rather to protect the Indian relics, native habitats, vegetation, and wildlife. However, hikers do enjoy taking the 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) climb up Table Top Mountain and along the Lava Flow Trail to enjoy panoramic vistas and views of rock formations.