Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


The United States government holds public lands in trust for the whole of the American people. This article focuses on National Monuments under the Antiquities Act. It argues that the federal government should renew its approach to the management of these lands by incorporating principles of environmental justice and long- term environmental viability. The article begins by examining the historical and legal foundations of federal lands in the United States, with a focus on the Antiquities Act. It then reflects on recent litigation and political controversy surrounding Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, to illustrate how the current ad-hoc approach to management leaves valuable public lands subject to cyclical presidential administrations and without necessary, durable management policies. The article offers three recommendations. First, that the Antiquities Act be amended to reserve the right to diminish existing monuments solely to Congress. Second, that any amendment also requires minimum management standards for all new national monuments. Finally, the article calls for executive branch agencies to develop more robust means for incorporating stakeholder input in the management planning of national monuments, including through advisory boards. We argue that, due to the history of Native American land dispossession in the United States, there ought to be specific policies for fostering greater collaboration and co- stewardship agreements with Native American tribes and organizations.



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