The Antiquities Act of 1906 was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who was famous for his conservation legacy. This law says the "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." Under the Antiquities Act, President Roosevelt's most famous act of conservation was to protect the Grand Canyon. Since then, U.S. Presidents of both political parties have used the Antiquities Act to conserve our nation's natural, cultural, and spiritual heritage.
Christian communities have long been on the record supporting use of the Antiquities Act for conservation. Faith communities have participated in stakeholder meetings, written to their newspapers, and advocated to Congress as well as the Administration regarding conserving God's creation, our history, our culture, and our spirituality through establishing national monuments. Recent examples include support of Bears Ears National Monument, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and many others.
Today's Executive Order requires a review of monuments designated after 1996. The majority of national monuments designated after 1996 highlight the stories of diverse communities -- African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American.
Georges Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, once said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”
These monuments hold our nation's collective memory. As Secretary Zinke leads the Department of Interior in this review process, it is important that he listen to all the people who treasure these monuments where we learn, play, pray, and build community -- including and especially people whose histories and cultures are highlighted in those monuments.