Obama creates, expands national monuments

Alicia WestJan 14, 2017

The president also increased the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by another 42,000 acres in OR and 5,000 acres in California. (George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon, all Republicans, are the only three presidents who never designated monuments.) But under Obama, this executive power became something of a sticking point for the GOP: The 2016 Republican platform included provisions to essentially curb the Antiquities Act and require congressional approval for all new national monuments, and to transfer some public lands back to states.

Parishioners enter the historic 16th Street Baptist Church for Sunday services November 2, 2008, in Birmingham, Alabama.

The new Freedom Riders National Monument in the east Alabama city of Anniston will include the Greyhound bus station where a racially integrated bus of activists was attacked in 1961.

A brick church in the Penn Center Historic District on Saint Helena Island, S.C. The center, the site of one of the nation's first schools for freed slaves, on Thursday was designated as a new national monument.

The president also designated the first national monument dedicated to Reconstruction, a complicated era of American history meant to reshape the South after the emancipation of 4 million slaves following the Civil War. "They tell the important stories of the citizens who helped launch the civil rights movement in Birmingham and the Freedom Riders whose bravery raised national awareness of segregation and violence".

The Obama administration has designated a total of 554 million acres, equal to an area five times the size of California, both onshore and offshore as national monuments.

President Obama has until the day he leaves office - January 20 - to take executive actions, such as designating monuments. He reportedly said recently he was "open" to repealing Bears Ears National Monument, a site in Utah that Obama carved out in December. And he created the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument in Alabama; Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, Alabama; and, Reconstruction Era National Monument in SC.


The Post quotes Alan Spears, the National Parks Conservation Association's cultural resources director, as saying, "There was a time when we only focused on men on horseback, with swords". Obama's selections, by contrast, have included a monument to Latino farmworkers in California; a stop along the Underground Railroad in Maryland; and the Stonewall Inn in NY, an important site for the gay rights movement. "We've expanded the definition of what's important".

However at least one of the new protected landscapes, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, is more controversial.

Thursday's 48,000-acre expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument builds upon the original monument's goal to protect the area's extraordinary biodiversity.

Oregon's Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and various scientists and environmentalists had previously expressed hope President Obama would double the size of the monument in his final weeks as president. Kamala Harris said in a statement.

Located in southwestern OR and established in 2000, Cascade-Siskiyou was the first monument designated exclusively for the preservation of its biodiversity.

The expansion doesn't consider residents who live in the area and whose property rights will be affected, LaMalfa said.

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