A Century of Bipartisan Effort

Over 110 years, Presidents of both parties have worked to save national monuments.

Let’s take a break from the bitter partisan warfare and celebrate a bipartisan triumph: preserving numerous national monuments by presidents of both parties. This effort includes creation of 1.6 million square miles of marine preserves by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

It’s impressive just how many of our Presidents have been involved in this effort. According to the Congressional Research Service:

“Sixteen of the 19 Presidents since 1906 created 151 monuments, including the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Zion, Olympic, the Statue of Liberty, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. President Franklin Roosevelt used his authority the most often (36 times), while President Obama has proclaimed the most monument acreage (about 549 million, primarily in two expanded marine monuments).”

The largest monument on land was 10 million acres, designated by Jimmy Carter in Alaska.

This has been a truly bipartisan effort. George W. Bush created what was then the largest marine preserve in the world, with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (89.5 million acres); the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (60.9 million acres); the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (55.6 million acres); and the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (8.6 million acres). The bipartisan effort has deep roots. Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover between them added 26 national monuments under the National Park Service, including Bryce Canyon, Carlsbad Cave, and White Sands.

All of this has taken place under the aegis of the Antiquities Act, one of our shortest environmental statutes, which was passed and signed by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. The key portion of the law provides:

“[T]he President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments. . . .”

TR immediately used the law to protect a host of monuments, including the Petrified Forest, Muir Woods, and the Grand Canyon.

In what may count as the Supreme Court’s first-ever environmental decision, Cameron v. United States, the Court upheld the designation of the Grand Canyon as a historic monument:

“The defendants insist that the monument reserve should be disregarded on the ground that there was no authority for its creation. To this we cannot assent. The act under which the President proceeded empowered him to establish reserves embracing ‘objects of historic or scientific interest.’ The Grand Canyon, as stated in his proclamation, ‘is an object of unusual scientific interest.’ It is the greatest eroded canyon in the United States, if not in the world, is over a mile in depth, has attracted wide attention among explorers and scientists, affords an unexampled field for geologic study, is regarded as one of the great natural wonders, and annually draws to its borders thousands of visitors.”

The opinion was written by Justice Van Devanter, a conservative, later derided as one of the obstructionist “Four Horsemen” during the New Deal.  He wrote for a unanimous Court.

Today, we are approaching the end of a bitterly fought presidential campaign. It is good to recall the times our country has risen about partisanship and ideology to save our national heritage.


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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “A Century of Bipartisan Effort”

  1. The Real Reason Why Trump is Right and Hillary Wrong on Climate Change:

    “…..The crucifix has been replaced by the wind turbine; priests have been replaced by climate scientists; false prophets by the likes of Al Gore and Prince Charles; hair shirt penance and daily ritual by recycling; pilgrimages and purgatory by IPCC conferences; and so on.

    Conservatives naturally feel towards environmentalism as they do towards Scientology or pastafarianism or Jedi: why subscribe to a silly, made-up new religion when you’ve got a much preferable one sanctified by 2000 years of history?

    But even conservatives who aren’t remotely religious are instinctively sceptical of environmentalism for several other sound reasons……..”


    1. Well that article certainly tells you what you want to hear: “if you are a good Christian then you should reject climate science.” Of course the article offers nothing of substance, but it simply a bunch of opinion that serves as red meat to the base. Those who need to get their confirmation bias satisfied will certainly provide the site with clicks. Also, I notice that you sometimes post links for people to respond to, yet you never seem to address any links that people post to you. Is there a reason for that?

      More importantly, I hope you don’t expect to be taken seriously posting links from Breitbart. Although it makes sense: those who can’t tell who to trust on the internet are more likely to be fooled into believing climate change denialism. The guy who runs Breitbart, Steve Bannon, said, “We’re the platform for the alt-right.” In case you are not aware, the alt-right is the white nationalist wing of the right: those that are rejected by the mainstream right because of their openly racist views. They are the leftovers from segregation; the ones who did not get on board the Republican Party’s rejection of overt racism.

      Are these the people you identify with?

      1. Weiner’s Tale of Self-destruction Rocks Race for President:

        “……Once a hard-charging young congressman, Anthony Weiner lost his career and his marriage to a habit of trading sexually explicit messages that he couldn’t shake — a lurid tale of personal self-destruction that’s suddenly found its way into the race for president.

        Weiner is separated from Huma Abedin, the vice chairwoman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and one of the Democratic nominee’s closest aides. It’s the federal investigation into his sexting habits that is the “unrelated case” that led the FBI to a new batch of emails, which agency director James Comey told Congress on Friday may be “pertinent to our investigation” into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state……”


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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more