June 01, 2017

Are National Monuments the Right Way to Manage Federal Public Lands?

Matthew J. Sanders

American history is replete with struggles over who should own and care for the land and how it should be managed. In the first two months of this year, a group of activists commandeered the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon to protest what they viewed as the federal government’s undue control of public lands. The protest lasted 40 days and ended with one activist dead and many others arrested. Meanwhile, a movement in Utah to wrest 31 million acres of public lands from federal ownership is gaining steam, with its backers having passed a state law demanding that the federal government hand over land to the state and considering a lawsuit against the federal government. See H.B. 148, 59th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Utah 2012) (enacted); Brian Maffly, Republicans OK $14M land-transfer lawsuit, say Utah must regain sovereignty, Salt Lake Tribune (Dec. 9, 2015). Thirty-six similar bills have been introduced in 10 other western states during the current legislative cycle.

We can dismiss the Oregon standoff as fringe activism, and the land transfer movement as wishful thinking, but they are emblematic of a long-running and very real debate over the proper role of the federal government in owning and managing American lands. Whereas federal policy in the 1800s was aimed primarily at encouraging the disposal and development of public lands (those lands having been appropriated, of course, from American Indian tribes), in the 1900s that policy shifted toward reserving land for long-term federal ownership and management. Today the federal government owns 28 percent of the land in the United States and 47 percent in the 11 coterminous western states. In some states, that figure is much higher: 61 percent in Idaho and Alaska, 65 percent in Utah, and a whopping 85 percent in Nevada. Four agencies—the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service—manage 95 percent of these lands pursuant to a number of “organic” statutes and more recent legislation. See Carol Hardy Vincent, et al., Congressional Research Service, Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, 1–5 (Dec. 29, 2014).

The Malheur standoff and the state land transfer movement will join the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and 1980s, and the “wise use” movement of the 1980s and 1990s, as manifestations of the fractious dispute among ranchers, loggers, miners, private property activists, conservationists, federal land managers, and others about how best to manage our nation’s federal public lands. But perhaps no issue better represents—and more acutely inflames—that dispute than the designation of national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Such designations, made unilaterally by the president, withdraw land the federal government already owns from various uses (mining, logging, grazing, and the like) in favor of long-term conservation. National monument designations are increasingly common; even though the Antiquities Act is 110 years old, nearly one-third of national monuments have been designated in the last 20 years, and many more have been proposed or are under consideration. With President Obama’s three most recent designations in February, he has protected more than 265 million acres under the Antiquities Act, more than any other president. See White House Fact Sheet, President Obama to Designate New National Monuments in the California Desert (Feb. 12, 2016). Critics argue that national monument designations, especially more recent ones, are unlawful and undemocratic, while supporters argue that they are fair and necessary to secure the long-term protection of special places and resources.

In the course of my career, I have represented nonprofit groups that lobby for national monuments, land users who are affected by them, and the government agencies that manage them. My experiences have made me curious about the history of the Antiquities Act and national monument designations, the designation process, and the challenges to and concerns about the Act. This article explores those topics, all with an eye toward answering an unusually stubborn question: Are national monument designations the right way to make long-term management decisions for federal public lands?

We should begin, of course, with the Antiquities Act itself. That law provides as follows:

(a) The President may, in the President’s discretion, declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments.

(b) The President may reserve parcels of land as a part of the national monuments. The limits of the parcels shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

54 U.S.C. § 320301 (2014). (The Antiquities Act was originally codified with substantially the same language at 16 U.S.C. § 431.)

The Antiquities Act was born of a desire by archaeologists to protect historic and prehistoric objects and artifacts, which, at the turn of the nineteenth century, were increasingly threatened by private collectors and looters. Most early versions of the law accordingly focused on protecting archaeological antiquities, a fact many lawyers and scholars have cited to argue for more limited executive authority to designate national monuments. However, as others point out, the Department of the Interior, which was closely involved in drafting the early versions of the bill that would eventually become law, believed an archaeological focus was too narrow. The department instead thought the president needed the authority to protect public lands for their scenic and other values, much like the authority to establish forest reserves under the General Revision Act of 1891 (repealed in 1976). Accordingly, in 1900, Republican Representative John Lacey of Iowa introduced H.R. 11021, which would have authorized the president to “[s]et apart and reserve tracts of public land, which for their scenic beauty, natural wonders or curiosities, ancient ruins or relics, or other objects of scientific or historical interest, or springs of medicinal properties it is desirable to protect and utilize in the interest of the public.” H.R. 11021, 58th Cong., § 1 (1900).

Some members of Congress, particularly from western states, objected that H.R. 11021 was too broad, particularly in light of President Theodore Roosevelt’s extensive use of the General Revision Act. H.R. 11021 was not enacted, and the many bills that followed focused more narrowly on protecting archaeological sites and artifacts, sometimes in small reserves of 320 or 640 acres. However, the Department of the Interior and other members of Congress continued to argue for broader executive authority. In 1905, a well-respected archaeologist named Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett became the architect of the bills that President Roosevelt signed into law as the Antiquities Act the following year. See H.R. 11016 & S. 4698, 59th Cong. (1906) (enacted as Pub. L. No. 59-209, 34 Stat. 225 (1906) and codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 431–433). The legislation was a compromise. On the one hand, it allowed “national monuments” to include not just “historic landmarks” and “historic and prehistoric structures” but also “other objects of historic or scientific interest.” On the other hand, the law required the president to limit monuments to “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected” (although it did not specify a specific acreage limit). 54 U.S.C. § 320301(a), (b) (formerly 16 U.S.C. § 431). In the subsequent 100 years, the meaning of these simple phrases has proved far from clear.

The History, Process, and Effects of National Monument Designations

Following its enactment in 1906, President Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to designate 18 national monuments, including the 808,000-acre Grand Canyon National Monument. Since then, with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, every American president has used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate at least one national monument. As of February, 147 monuments had been designated under the Act, although many of them have since been converted to national parks, preserves, or wildlife refuges. (Congress also has employed its plenary authority under the Property Clause to designate many other national monuments.) See National Park Service, Antiquities Act 1906-2006: National Monuments List (2016); National Park Service, Antiquities Act 1906-2006: Frequently Asked Questions (undated).

The number of national monuments designated by each president has varied wildly, from one each for Presidents Truman and Johnson to 19 each for Presidents Clinton and Obama. If we look only at land-based national monuments, President Carter designated the largest combined area, at nearly 56 million acres, mostly in Alaska. If we include marine national monuments, President George W. Bush was, until recently, the winner with more than 147 million acres. President Obama has eclipsed both predecessors, having protected 265 million acres, mostly by enlarging a network of marine national monuments established by the second President Bush. Indeed, of the 147 national monuments created to date, the last three presidents have designated nearly a third (that figure rises to 42 percent if we include President Carter), and they are responsible for an even higher percentage of the total number of acres included within national monuments over time. Thus, while a few early presidents designated large numbers of national monuments, it is clear that the Antiquities Act is becoming an increasingly common tool to ensure the long-term preservation of federal lands.

The process for designating a national monument has varied over time, with different procedures for each president and sometimes for each monument. However, since the Clinton administration, most monuments start with a proposal generated by the Interior Department, sometimes at the urging of a grassroots coalition or a member of Congress. The most successful proposals are often those that begin as legislation but fail to receive sufficient traction, such as President Obama’s three most recent national monuments (originally the subject of conservation bills sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein). Interior officials then meet with stakeholders, including federal and local politicians and communities. The Interior Department, with the help of the relevant land management agency, drafts a proclamation, background information, and maps. The White House Council on Environmental Quality reviews the proposal and makes a recommendation to the president, who then issues a proclamation. The proclamation becomes effective when it is published in the Federal Register, usually within a week.

Monument designation has significant consequences. Recall that the Antiquities Act authorizes a president to protect resources “that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States.” In other words, the Act allows national monuments to be established only on lands the federal government already owns or manages. (There is one exception: a provision of the Act providing that private property and lands subject to unperfected claims “may be relinquished” to the federal government. 54 U.S.C. § 320301(c) (formerly 16 U.S.C. § 431).) National monument proclamations, therefore, afford greater protection to lands already under federal control, chiefly by withdrawing them from entry, location, sale, or other disposition under the public land laws—that is, from mining, logging, oil and gas production, grazing, off-road vehicles, and other such uses. These restrictions are effectively permanent—the prevailing wisdom is that presidents have limited authority to modify national monuments, and only Congress can abolish them. See Pamela Baldwin, Congressional Research Service Report RS20647, Authority of a President to Modify or Eliminate a National Monument, 3 (2000) (discussing 39 Op. Att’y Gen. 185, 187–89 (1938)).

Nonetheless, not all national monuments are created equal or managed equally. The allowable uses vary by monument according to the purposes for which each monument is created, and are set forth in a land-use management plan prepared by the administering agency. Traditionally most monuments were designated to protect a single, identifiable resource, such as an unusual rock formation or historic artifact, and were placed in the care of the preservation-focused National Park Service. More recently, however, monuments are being used to protect large ecosystems and are often managed together with, or instead by, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service, or Fish and Wildlife Service. The BLM and the Forest Service come at land management from a “multiple use” perspective that tends, on paper and in practice, to be more permissive than the Park Service’s clear preservation mandate. As a result, newer monuments are often subject to fewer or weaker restrictions on allowable uses.

Enforcement also plays a quiet but oversized role in determining the destiny of a national monument. Through the power of the purse, presidents and Congress can make a national monument’s restrictions meaningful or render them toothless. See Sanjay Ranchod, The Clinton National Monuments: Protecting Ecosystems with the Antiquities Act, 25 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 535, 555–73 (2001). Whatever restrictions are imposed in a national monument, they are subject to “valid existing rights,” a concept that is clear in principle but confounding in application for federal agencies, rights holders, and lawyers alike.

The History of Challenges to National Monument Designations

The presidential designation of national monuments has always been contentious. President Teddy Roosevelt’s designation of Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908 precipitated the Supreme Court’s 1920 decision in Cameron v. United States, 252 U.S. 450, 455 (1920), the first case challenging the scope of the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act. In 1969, Utah Senator Bob Bennett proclaimed President Johnson’s national monuments a “last gasp attempt to embalm a little more land in the West.” Gordon Elliot White, Hearings Due on Land Plan, Deseret News, Jan. 22, 1969, at B1; Bennett Blasts LBJ “Land Grab” to Expand 2 Monuments in Utah, Sake Lake Tribune, Jan. 22, 1969, § 2 at 17. When President Carter designated over 54 million acres of monuments in Alaska in 1978, he set aside more than four and one-half times the land that prior presidents had protected in the preceding 72 years. Alaskan officials and members of the public were outraged, two lawsuits were filed, and Congress, while ultimately ratifying most of Carter’s withdrawals, precluded future presidents from designating any further Alaskan monuments greater than 5,000 acres without congressional approval. See Alaska v. Carter, 462 F. Supp. 1155 (D. Alaska 1978); Anaconda Copper Co. v. Andrus, 14 Env’t Rep. Cas. (BNA) 1853 (D. Alaska 1980); Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3209, 3213(a). Perhaps in part because of President Carter’s perceived overreach, the Antiquities Act remained unused for 18 years, until President Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah in 1996. That designation—which remains the largest initial designation ever in the contiguous United States—was so controversial that, on the day it was announced, southern Utah communities flew their flags at half-mast, and the town of Escalante hanged President Clinton and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt in effigy.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s 19 national monument designations (22 if we count enlargements of prior designations), all made in the last five years, have reinvigorated the debate over the proper exercise of presidential power under the Antiquities Act. Reminiscent of Senator Bob Bennett’s objection that President Johnson sought to “embalm” the West, Utah Republican Representative Rob Bishop, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, has called President Obama’s monuments a “surreptitious land grab” and an “authoritarian act” of “presidential bullying.” Rep. Rob Bishop, Press Release, President Ignores Legislative Process in Another Round of Unilateral Monument Designations (Feb. 12, 2016); Rep. Rob Bishop, Press Release, Surreptitious White House Land Grab is Shameful Executive Move, Makes Mess of Democratic Process (July 10, 2015).

Representative Bishop is not alone; in the last two years, Republican representatives and senators have introduced no fewer than 12 bills aimed at limiting or revoking the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act. Carrying titles like the Preserving State Rights Act (H.R. 4132, 114th Cong. (2015) (unenacted)) and Protecting Local Communities from Executive Overreach Act (H.R. 3946, 114th Cong. (2015) (unenacted)), the bills would, for example, require advance approval from states or local communities or both; limit new monuments to 5,000 acres; require Congress and the affected state to approve any new monument either before or within three years of its designation; preclude new monuments in certain counties, states, or off-road vehicle areas; prohibit the reservation of federal water rights; preclude the restriction of allowable uses absent public comment and congressional approval; require public hearings; and subject new designations to review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If history is any indication, these bills have little chance of becoming law; the only similar bills to have been enacted were those limiting new monuments in Alaska and prohibiting them in Wyoming. See 16 U.S.C. § 3213(a); 54 U.S.C. § 320301(d).

Litigation has been equally persistent but even less successful. In Cameron v. United States, 252 U.S. 450, 455–56 (1920), the Supreme Court summarily rejected a challenge to President Theodore Roosevelt’s sweeping Grand Canyon National Monument, explaining that it plainly protected an “object of unusual scientific interest.” In Wyoming v. Franke, 58 F. Supp. 890 (D. Wyo. 1945), a federal district court upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s designation of Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming. The court reasoned that “if there be evidence in the case of a substantial character upon which the President may have acted in declaring that there were objects of historic or scientific interest included within the area, it is sufficient upon which he may have based a discretion.” Id. at 895. The court found such evidence and politely directed the State of Wyoming to Congress for a remedy. Id. at 896–97.

More recent lawsuits have yielded similar results. In Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128, 141-42 (1976), the Supreme Court rejected the argument that Death Valley National Monument was unlawful because it did not protect archaeological features. In Alaska v. Carter, 462 F. Supp. 1155, 1160 (D. Alaska 1978), the district court rejected the argument that the Department of the Interior’s involvement in the designation of President Carter’s 15 national monuments triggered NEPA review. The district court ultimately dismissed as moot the claims in Anaconda Copper Company v. Andrus, 14 Env’t Rep. Cas. (BNA) 1853, 1855 (D. Alaska 1980), but not before finding that Congress had, over time, implicitly acquiesced to a broad reading of the Antiquities Act, and that President Carter could lawfully protect ecological and geological areas under the Act. In United States v. California, 436 U.S. 32, 35–36 (1978), the Supreme Court affirmed President Truman’s authority to reserve the submerged lands and waters in Channel Islands National Monument nearly 30 years earlier. And four suits challenging President Clinton’s designation and management of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument were equally unsuccessful, although they did reaffirm that designations are subject to judicial review. See Kane Cnty. Utah v. Salazar, 562 F.3d 1077 (10th Cir. 2009); Tulare Cnty. v. Bush, 306 F.3d 1138 (D.C. Cir. 2002); Mtn. States Legal Found. v. Bush, 306 F.3d 1132 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (upholding dismissal for failure to state a claim); Utah Ass’n of Counties v. Bush, 316 F. Supp. 2d 1172 (D. Utah 2004), aff’d, 455 F.3d 1094 (10th Cir. 2006). In short, the courts have been willing to engage in only limited review of the exercise of presidential authority under the Antiquities Act, and they have never found such exercise unlawful. No challenge has been filed to date against President Obama’s national monuments, but if one is, the courts will almost certainly uphold them.

The Current (and Long-Running) Debate

For all their failures, congressional efforts and lawsuits aimed at curbing presidential authority to declare national monuments have succeeded in expressing persistent, fundamental discomfort with the Antiquities Act. That discomfort has been the subject not only of legislation and litigation, but also of countless political campaigns, press pieces, law review articles, and books. Underlying the heated rhetoric and the vast literature are two sets of genuine concerns—one about the fairness of designations and their effects on local communities and certain users of public lands, the other about effects on other users and the larger question of whether we can effectively preserve public lands for future generations without strong executive authority.

The Antiquities Act’s critics raise three objections most often: (1) the Act appropriates power that properly resides with Congress under the Property Clause (or with the states); (2) democracy and informed decision making demand that the public have the right to review and comment on proposed designations; and (3) national monument designations harm the economies of local communities.

Regarding the first concern, legal formalists and originalists contend that the Antiquities Act, in giving the president wide-ranging power to designate national monuments, violates the non-delegation doctrine and intrudes on Congress’s plenary authority over the federal public lands. See U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3, cl. 2. But functionalists and others who support the Act point to the long history of strong executive authority under other statutes, the court decisions upholding the Act against all manner of challenges, and the fact that Congress has the last word on whether particular monuments, and indeed the Act itself, remain on the books.

As for the second concern—the lack of public participation in monument designations—there is no denying that the Antiquities Act provides for less public input than our more modern environmental laws. The elaborate notice-and-comment procedures we have come to expect under NEPA, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the National Forest Management Act, and other statutes are absent during the national monument designation process. Consultation with local communities and existing users is often cursory, and even when it isn’t, their concerns are often ignored. Thus, critics argue, the Antiquities Act should be repealed or at least amended to require extensive public review, either to rely on other legal authorities for making land-management decisions or to use them as a model. For example, the executive’s powers to withdraw lands under FLPMA, or to propose them as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1966, are subject to public and congressional participation and are, the critics believe, adequate to protect sensitive lands and resources. At a minimum, critics assert, Congress should be required to generate or sign off on designations before they become law.

Supporters of the Antiquities Act argue that the designation process already provides for public participation—rarely is a national monument created without consultation between the Department of the Interior, the White House, Congress, and state and local representatives of the affected areas. Indeed, national monuments can even create new regimes for collaboration between the federal government and stakeholders, as the many American Indian tribes behind a proposal for Bears Ears National Monument in Utah point out. See Anne Minard, Bears Ears 1.9-Million Acre Monument Would Be Unique Tribal-Federal Collaboration, Indian Country Today Media Network (Oct. 5, 2015). Still, as noted above, consultation in the national monument designation often leaves room for improvement.

Supporters also point out that the land-use plans that guide the management of national monuments are subject to extensive public review under NEPA and the administering agencies’ organic statutes. Those land-use plans can be as significant as the designation itself in how a national monument is managed. In any event, supporters argue, the Antiquities Act is more effective without extensive public review, which would hobble one of the few environmental laws that work. They also explain that the president is better situated than Congress or local interest groups to make long-term decisions about the management of federal lands, primarily because the president represents the broad interests of the American people, while members of Congress and local groups have narrower constituencies. And while supporters value FLPMA, the Wilderness Act, and other statutes that can serve to promote conservation, they are understandably pessimistic that the congressional approval that each of those statutes requires can be secured in our increasingly polarized political climate.

The Antiquities Act’s supporters observe that Congress has the power to shrink or abolish national monuments and to bar new monuments in specific areas, each of which it has done multiple times. Yet, expressing anything but disapproval for how the Antiquities Act has been implemented, Congress has turned many national monuments into national parks, and has never significantly amended or repealed the Antiquities Act, including in 1976 when it overhauled how the majority of federal public lands were managed in FLPMA. That is a strong argument, but it overlooks the fact that most members of Congress come from states or districts where the federal government owns little land, and therefore have little to lose by supporting a law that does not affect their constituents.

Regarding economic impacts, critics contend that monuments, by restricting allowable uses, destroy long-established enterprises on public lands. The effects can be especially severe in the remote places in the West where most monuments are created and job opportunities are few. President Clinton’s 1996 Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument sequestered what was then the largest undeveloped coal deposit in the United States, while the national monument reportedly being considered for the Owyhee Canyonlands (which helped precipitate the recent standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon) could close nearly 2.5 million acres to cattle grazing. For their part, supporters emphasize the increasing number of visitors (and hence dollars) that National Parks, monuments, and other protected areas bring to surrounding communities. In supporters’ view, national monuments don’t kill local economies and jobs so much as transform them. Moreover, when we quantify the economic benefits of ecosystem services, we see that a prairie that provides value when it is grazed can provide even greater value when it is left alone. See, e.g., Jan G. Laitos & Thomas A. Carr, The Transformation on Public Lands, 26 Ecology L.Q. 140, 145–46 (1999). However, these tradeoffs are of little comfort to those whose jobs and livelihoods—indeed, whose very ways of relating to the land—are permanently “transformed” by presidential decree.

So who’s right? Should the Antiquities Act be repealed, cut back, or left alone? Reasonable minds differ on the answer to that question, but the Antiquities Act’s record is telling. Right before President Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in 1996, 47 percent of Utahns opposed its creation. Just six months later, that number was down to 32 percent. A year later, the number of tourists stopping by the visitor center had jumped by 58 percent, and 10 years later, they and the monument’s 430 full-time jobs were contributing at least $26 million to the local economy. See James Brooke, Utah is Warming Up To Newest Monument, N.Y. Times, Oct. 13, 1997; Amy Siegel, Ten Years Later: Grand Staircase-Escalante Still Elicits Both Cheers and Jeers from Utahns, New West, Feb. 20, 2016. Grand Staircase-Escalante is hardly the model for a good national monument—there was almost no consultation with local stakeholders, and it was created largely to curry political favor before the 1996 presidential election. But that checkered background only makes the monument’s success more notable. And Grand Staircase-Escalante is far from alone. Many of the places we treasure most today were or remain presidentially designated national monuments, including Grand Canyon National Park, Muir Woods, Joshua Tree National Park, the Grand Tetons, and the Statue of Liberty. When designated sparingly and in real consultation with local communities, existing users, and American Indian tribes, national monuments—we seem to realize—aren’t so bad after all.

Some will argue that we accept national monuments because we have no other choice, not because we have some grudging or subconscious admiration for the Antiquities Act as good policy. But it is hard to ignore 110 years of history. The Antiquities Act was adopted out of a “concern that spectacular public land resources might be harmed before Congress could act to protect them.” Mark Squillace, The Monumental Legacy of the Antiquities Act of 1906, 37 Ga. L. Rev. 473, 553 (2003). In coming to tolerate, accept, and ultimately cherish our national monuments, we seem to appreciate the unlikely prescience that brought them into being. We come to recognize that we live in a world that, for often understandable reasons, favors development over conservation and short-term rewards over long-term sustainability. Wilderness, as Wallace Stegner reminded us in his 1960 Wilderness Letter, has shaped and is part of our character, “something [that] will have gone out of us as a people” if we fail to sufficiently preserve it. That risk, Edward Abbey warned eight years later in Desert Solitaire, is all too real: “Wilderness preservation, like a hundred other good causes, will be forgotten under the overwhelming pressure of a struggle for mere survival and sanity in a completely urbanized, completely industrialized, ever more crowded environment.”

The Antiquities Act is a counterweight to the pressures that drive us toward expediency. The Act forces us to think in the long term and on a large scale, to occasionally make the choice to leave our children and their Earth more than a series of small, isolated parks. And it is the Act’s simplicity that makes that very difficult choice possible. As one scholar has observed, we may “love to hate” the Antiquities Act, but the Act, unusual among our environmental laws, “allows for the designation and management of unique areas where human ties to the land are particularly apparent.” Christine A. Klein, Preserving Monumental Landscapes Under the Antiquities Act, 87 Cornell L. Rev. 1333, 1385, 1393–1402 (2002). Those areas include not only ruins and cliffs and lakes, but also the larger landscapes and ecosystems of which we ourselves are part. We speak of national monuments as “preserving” or “conserving” land and resources, which they do. But national monuments also encourage us to thoughtfully consider what we want from and for our environment, and to sometimes choose to preserve, for its own sake and for ours.

Matthew J. Sanders

Mr. Sanders is of counsel to Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP in San Francisco. He may be reached at msanders@jmbm.com.