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The Colorado Plateau

The Vast and the Intimate
Suspended in Time
A Textbook of Geomorphology


New Mexico


Aquarius Plateau, Utah
Arches NP, Utah
Arizona Strip
Black Mesa, Arizona
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
Canyonlands NP, Utah
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Chuska Mountains, New Mexico
Dinosaur NM, Colorado/Utah
Glen Canyon/Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon-Parashant NM, Arizona
Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah
Upper Gunnison Basin, Colorado
Kaibab Plateau, Arizona
La Sal Mountains, Utah
Lees Ferry, Arizona
Little Colorado River, Arizona
Mesa Verde, Colorado
Mogollon Rim, Arizona
San Francisco Peaks, Arizona
White Mountains, Arizona
Wupatki/Sunset Crater, Arizona
Zion NP, Utah

PlacesThe Antiquities Act

In June of 1906, the U.S. Congress passed the Antiquities Act, which grants the President unconditional authority to declare tracts of land as national monuments in order to protect objects of historic or scientific value. Since this legislation was adopted, all but three U.S. presidents have used this authority to create over 100 national monuments such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, Glacier Bay, and Death Valley. Many of these monuments have eventually become national parks. In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt exercised this authority to ensure protection for the Grand Canyon, which was designated as a national park in 1919. All but one of the national parks in Utah began as presidentially designated national monuments.

The use of the Antiquities Act by President Clinton to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in January, 2000, has sparked heated debate about land-use and conservation in the West. Unlike the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws, the Antiquities Act does not require public disclosure and discussion, or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Opponents of the newly-created monuments contend that the use of this legislation to preserve lands is unfair in that it excludes the public and state and local authorities from the decision process. In the wake of the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, several western Republicans drafted legislation to scale back the power of the Antiquities Act. No less than eight bills have been introduced to curtail this Presidential authority by such means as requiring public hearings and full disclosure to state and local officials, congressional approval for monuments over 5,000 acres, and exemption of Idaho and Washington from the Antiquities Act. To date, the Antiquities Act has not been amended or compromised.

The following is the text of the Antiquities Act of 1906:

16 U.S.C. 431
National monuments; reservation of lands; relinquishment of private claims:

The President of the United States is 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, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected. When such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bona fide unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.