The nation’s list of national monuments—places of “historic or scientific” interest—has grown by five. On Monday, President Obama added five sites to the 103 previously enshrined.
The newcomers range from an ancient canyon in New Mexico to a 480-acre (194-hectare) property in Maryland where the courageous abolitionist Harriet Tubman helped to free runaway slaves.
National monuments do not have the same status as national parks, but once a site is designated as a national monument, Congress has the authority to designate it a national park. Nearly half of today’s national parks began as national monuments. Under the Antiquities Act, a President can protect public land without waiting for Congress to pass legislation. The first President to use this prerogative was Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1906 protected the flat-topped volcanic formation Devils Tower in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have established national monuments, with President Clinton topping the charts with 22 establishments or expansions.
The new monuments include:
- Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico
- Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland
- First State National Monument in Delaware
- San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington (including the Patos Island Lighthouse shown above)
- Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio