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Protecting America’s Natural and Historic Treasures

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 12, 2000


President Clinton, in a trip today to Grand Canyon National Park, will sign proclamations creating three new national monuments – the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and the Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona, and the California Coastal National Monument. The President also will sign a proclamation expanding Pinnacles National Monument in California. The newly protected areas are already federal land and, beginning today, will be managed with the overriding purpose of preserving their unique natural, scientific and historic features.

A Century of Land Stewardship. Among the tools available to the federal government to preserve America’s natural heritage is the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the President to create national monuments on federal land to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.” The Act was passed by Congress in 1906 and first used by President Theodore Roosevelt who, precisely 92 years ago today, created the Grand Canyon National Monument -- the core of what later became Grand Canyon Park. In the years since, almost every President has protected natural and historic sites under the Act. These lands, some of which Congress later designated as parks, include Death Valley, California’s Muir Woods, Alaska’s Glacier Bay, Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, portions of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, and Utah’s Bryce and Zion canyons. Today, more than 100 monuments in 24 states and the Virgin Islands protect some 70 million acres, about 10 percent of all federal lands.

New Monuments for a New Millennium. A year ago, President Clinton requested Interior Secretary Babbitt to report to him on unique and fragile federal lands in need of protection. After extensive study and close consultation with local citizens, state and local officials, and members of Congress, the Secretary recommended the following lands, which the President is today protecting as monuments:

  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument – Just over 1 million acres of deep canyons, mountains, and buttes on the north rim of the Grand Canyon with a vast and colorful array of geologic features; evidence of prehistoric peoples; relics of 19th-century settlers; and diverse plant and animal life, including rare species such as the California condor and desert tortoise.
  • Agua Fria National Monument – A 71,100-acre site 40 miles north of Phoenix that contains some of the most extensive prehistoric ruins in the Southwest, including spectacular petroglyphs, terraced agricultural areas, and rock pueblos once inhabited by communities of several thousand.
  • California Coastal National Monument – Thousands of islands, rocks and reefs along the 840-mile California coast providing critical feeding and nesting grounds for seabirds, including the threatened brown pelican; and for marine mammals, including the threatened Steller sea lion.
  • Pinncales National Monument – A 7,900-acre expansion of Pinnacles monument south of San Jose (created in 1908) to help preserve the monument’s unusual rock formations, its watershed, and important habitat for species including golden eagles, prairie falcons, and red-tailed hawks.

The overriding purpose in managing these lands will be protection of the unique natural, scientific and historic features identified in today’s proclamations. Valid existing rights, such as water rights and prior mining claims, will be maintained. Other existing uses, such as grazing and hunting, generally will not be affected (although hunting will no longer be permitted in the Pinnacles expansion area). At the Arizona monuments, the current prohibition on off-road vehicles will be made permanent. No new mining claims may be filed and, in some areas, the proclamations reserve water rights for the federal government.

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