Obama Names Five New National Monuments

Washington's San Juan Islands among newly protected lands

President Obama issued executive orders today creating five new National Monuments, including 240,000 acres of the Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico and 970 acres of Washington State’s San Juan Islands.

Also on the list are the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.

Unlike a National Park, which requires an act of Congress to create, a National Monument only requires a presidential proclamation. Prior to this, President Obama had created four such monuments.

Of particular interest to outdoors lovers are the San Juan Islands and Rio Grande del Norte, which will both be under the authority of the Bureau of Land Management.

From the San Juan proclamation:

Within Washington State's Puget Sound lies an archipelago of over 450 islands, rocks, and pinnacles known as the San Juan Islands. These islands form an unmatched landscape of contrasts, where forests seem to spring from gray rock and distant, snow-capped peaks provide the backdrop for sandy beaches. Numerous wildlife species can be found here, thriving in the diverse habitats supported by the islands.

This particular proclamation comes after Washington legislators had unsuccessfully tried to get Congress to declare the islands a National Conservation Area, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This archipelago is a favorite spot for sea kayakers looking to spot orcas or explore its thickly forested islets. (Click here for a list of outfitters.)

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument will encompass a swath of northern New Mexico around the Rio Grande Gorge and plains extending up to 25 miles to the west. The gorge’s whitewater rapids, already protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, attract some 40,000 paying visitors a year, a BLM representative told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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