NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reassessing the Antiquities Act

April 1, 2015

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, giving him and all presidents to follow the power to establish territories of extreme cultural or scientific value. In the time of its creation, the document protected valuable possessions and Native American Monuments.

Many aspects of the law have sparked unrest however:

  • Unlike national parks, the Antiquities Act establishes national monuments, and does not require congressional approval to create.
  • The Antiquities Act was created largely to protect Native American archaeological sites from looting, a problem which no longer exists to the same degree.
  • The Department of the Interior is charged with maintaining these lands, however they are currently running at least a $13.5 billion deficit, with mismanagement and ineffective. cleaning leading to environmental degradation, soil erosion and widespread littering
  • States can no longer help manage the land or repurpose it, with places such as Alaska having lost over 5,000 acres to the act.

Presidents of both parties have been widely criticized for abusing these powers and hurting both states and the environment. In the meantime, the act also represents an uncharacteristic example of unchecked power, which opponents argue should be regulated by Congress at the very least if not repealed altogether.

Source: Nicolas Loris "The Antiquated Act: Time to Repeal the Antiquities Act," The Heritage Foundation, March 31, 2015. 


Browse more articles on Environment Issues