What is a National Monument?

A brief explanation of the federal designation


Devils Tower National Monument

A National Monument is an area protected by the government, which is home to at least one nationally significant resource, “of historic or scientific interest.” National Monuments are typically smaller than National Parks and they usually don’t have as many attractions.

Another thing that sets National Monuments apart from National Parks is the way they are established. The President of the United States can establish a National Monument without consulting congress or congress can establish a monument through legislation, while National Parks need congressional approval.

Devils Tower in Wyoming was the first ever National Monument, established by President Theodore Roosevelt through the use of the Antiquities Act. The rock feature is scientifically significant and it remains one of the best traditional crack climbing areas on the continent, thanks to the hundreds of parallel cracks. Since before its preservation in the early 1900s, Devils Tower was also considered sacred to some Native American tribes in the area.

There are currently 109 National Monuments, managed by several different government departments—the National Park service (NPS) manages most of the monuments, while other land management agencies manage the others. Over time monuments have been added, removed and reorganized by either the President or Congress.

The most recent National Monument added to the register is the 496,330-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. President Barack Obama added the monument under the Antiquities Act in May of 2014. The monument is shown in the picture above, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

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