Our public lands are home to places that have shaped our history. They are an integral part of our diverse cultures and way of life, providing critical habitat for wildlife, and offering people places to hike, hunt, ﬁsh, and experience the outdoors.
National monuments are designated to protect public lands and waters that have cultural, historic, ecological, and scientiﬁc importance to ensure that future generations can enjoy these places as we can today.
A national monument can be established either by Congress through legislation or by the President through use of the Antiquities Act. National Monuments are managed by federal agencies including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service, U.S Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some of New Mexico’s most iconic natural areas are protected as national monuments, including Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Bandelier, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Petroglyph, and Rio Grande del Norte. White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns were ﬁrst designated as national monuments, too.
National monuments ensure public lands are managed with local input to facilitate careful, responsible enjoyment of these special areas. The management of these areas takes into consideration pre-existing uses and local priorities.
Designating national monuments may also help increase agency staff and funding resources to improve management of recreation and other activities on these lands as well as the protection of cultural, historic, and ecological resources. These efforts help protect the water, the wildlife, and our way of life.
National Monuments and Private Lands
National monument designations pertain to the management of federally owned public lands, including Bureau of Land Management lands, and do not impact or inﬂuence what you can do on your private property. National monuments protect “existing rights,” including the right to access your property. (Developing private property is governed by county or local municipal zoning laws and is not affected by a national monument designation.)
Non-partisan Tool Utilized by Republican and Democrat presidents since 1906
The Antiquities Act grants U.S. presidents the ability to designate federal public lands, waters, and cultural and historical sites as national monuments with a Presidential Proclamation. Since President Teddy Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, 18 US Presidents – 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats – have used the Act to establish or expand over 150 national monuments. Congress can also establish or modify national monuments through legislation.
Monument Would Be Managed By the Bureau of Land Management
National monuments can be managed by one or more of these federal agencies: National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, or Department of Energy. With only one small exception, all national monuments established on BLM lands since 1996 have remained under that agency’s management. This allows for greater accommodation of existing land uses and more ﬂexibility in managing national monuments.
A monument proclamation directs the agency or agencies to develop a resource management plan with input from and consultation with state and local governments, tribes, communities, and the public. Plans take into account local considerations and could include promoting cooperative conservation, preserving Tribal culture and religious activities, conserving critical wildlife habitat, improving recreation opportunities, and other priorities. Historically, monuments can also help bring additional resources for recreation and resource management and to improve the visitor experience.
Existing Authorized Uses
National monuments recognize valid existing rights, including access to private property, traditional cultural and customary uses by Indian tribes, valid mining claims, ﬂood control, rights of way for roads and utility infrastructure, and previously existing oil and gas leases. Other activities allowed in BLM national monuments include:
- Hunting and ﬁshing
- Livestock grazing
- Camping and backpacking
- Riding motorized vehicles on designated roads
- Hiking, biking, and dogs
- Law enforcement & border security
- Horseback riding
- Fireﬁghting and fuels reduction
Grazing has continued at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
In Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the BLM’s management of livestock grazing has not been impacted since the monument’s designation in 2014. In fact, livestock numbers in the 6 years after the monument’s designation (2015-2020) were 30 percent greater than during the 6 years prior to the monument (2008-2013).