Pinnacles National Park: A good start
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.
Up on Mount Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt is smiling: America has a new national park. With its formal elevation from a national monument this
Roosevelt was familiar with congressional foot-dragging when protecting America's public lands was at stake. In 1903, during his first visit to the Grand Canyon, he advised the people of Arizona:
For 20 years, people such as John Muir had been calling for the canyon to be designated a national park, and for 20 years Congress had refused because of lobbying by special interests more interested in the canyon's commercial and industrial potential. With Roosevelt joining the effort for park status, you'd think that would have tipped the scale. Here was one of the great natural wonders of Earth
Fortunately for us all, Roosevelt didn't give up. He looked at a 1906 law called the Antiquities Act, meant originally as a way to save prehistoric cliff dwellings in the Southwest from vandalism, and turned it into an invaluable tool for conservation. The act provided presidents with the authority to sign executive orders designating special places not as national parks but as national monuments.
In January 1908, Roosevelt exercised that authority and with a stroke of his pen created Grand Canyon National Monument, placing 806,400 acres out of reach from being despoiled. Days later, he also used the Antiquities Act to create the much smaller Pinnacles National Monument. And before his presidency was over, he would create 18 national monuments, many of which, like Grand Canyon and now Pinnacles, eventually were designated by Congress as national parks.
Under Roosevelt's leadership, nearly 180 million acres of federal land
A hundred years later, Obama has so far permanently protected 2.6 million acres, a small portion of it by creating four new national monuments through use of the Antiquities Act. (For the sake of comparison, George W. Bush set aside 3.8 million acres; Bill Clinton, 26.9 million; George H.W. Bush, 17.8 million; and Ronald Reagan, 12.5 million.) It's a start, but there are still millions of acres across the nation that need to be preserved for posterity.
Facing a Congress indifferent at best to conservation
If Congress is interested only in exploiting the commercial and energy possibilities of the lands we all own, the president has a way to make sure a better balance is achieved, perhaps in the
There's plenty of ink left in the Antiquities Act pen in the Oval Office.
Dayton Duncan was the writer and co-producer of Ken Burns' documentary
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