Obama Administration To Protect More Than 240,000 Acres Of American Treasures

Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico

President Obama plans to use his executive authority to permanently protect five new national monuments next week.  This marks a significant step for the administration: It is now willing to step in and protect special places when Congress refuses to act.

The new monuments will be:

–  Rio Grande del Norte, in New Mexico

–  San Juan Islands, in Washington

–  First State, in Delaware

–  Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, in Maryland

–  Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers, in Ohio

Of particular note is Rio Grande del Norte, which at 240,000 acres is the largest monument that the administration has designated thus far.  Also, First State National Monument in Delaware will change the fact that the state is the only one in the U.S. without a national park unit.

The announcement of these designations under the 1906 Antiquities Act fits well with President Obama’s challenge to Congress during his State of the Union address:  “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”  The last Congress was the first since World War II that failed to protect a single new acre of parks, monuments, or wilderness, despite millions of acres proposed for protection by adjacent communities.  As John Podesta, Chair of the Center for American Progress put it, “The last Congress was the most anti-environmental in history, so President Obama is right to respond to the calls of local communities that want their public lands protected.”

The permanent protection of hundreds of thousands of acres is also critical because it is the administration’s next step towards putting the conservation of public lands on equal ground with energy development. In the president’s first term, he leased 6.3 million acres of public lands to oil and gas companies, while only 2.6 million acres were protected by Congress and the executive combined.   Last month former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt called on the administration to permanently protect one acre for each one drilled.

Today’s news is welcome for any American who see the economic, health, and other long-term benefits of protected public lands, and is an important advancement for the president in the establishment of his conservation legacy.

Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

13 Responses to Obama Administration To Protect More Than 240,000 Acres Of American Treasures

  1. David Goldstein says:

    I’m sorry, Jessica, but I have to laugh a bit at the gist of this article. It IS indeed good that the President is stepping up in this manner, but to say that it is an important advance in the establishment of his conservation legacy when he is (see likely approval of Keystone, and repeated statements to pursue ‘all of the above’ strategy) not meaningfully stepping up around climate change…..Well, it may be somewhat akin to a person with bunions and advancing heart disease taking better care of his feet but continuing to overeat and not exercise. That is wonderful for his feet but ain’t gonna help him much down the road. Lastly, I get that protecting public lands may limit fossil fuel extraction somewhat but…let’s get real about what needs to be done and is not getting done. And to contend that this is an indication that he will further ‘act will congress will not’ around carbon policy seems to me wishful thinking at best at this point.

  2. john atcheson says:

    This just in:
    “Obama saves acres, while allowing entire global ecosystem to collapse.”

    Yup, that’s some legacy!

  3. Leif says:

    A good start Mr. President. Now step up to the plate and protect the climate that nourishes all of this, as well as all Earth’s life support systems, and you will have a legacy to be proud of. Stop Keystone XL. Stop Profits from the Pollution of the Commons.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Well said David – absolutely on target and with respect to Jessica.

  5. Dan Ives says:

    I second what Sasparilla said.
    It’s unsettling that Joe seems content with allowing his blog to serve as an occasional Obama/Democrat propaganda outlet.
    How many acres has Obama sacrificed to coal, oil, and gas development? How many acres of “American Treasures” did BP coat with oil, and how did Obama make them pay for it?
    And we’re supposed to read this article and think Obama is some sort of champion of the environment? How dumb do they think we are, exactly?

  6. Dan Ives says:

    But remember, the last Congress was the most anti-environmental in history! It’s absolutely vital that their party not be allowed to take power, or else… they might allow the ecosystem to collapse!

    (that was sarcasm, which due to the nature of the comments that normally appear here, I feel I need to be 100% clear in identifying)

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The next Republican Administration will simply allow exploitation of these ‘Reserves’. Nothing is protected ‘forever’, and nothing is safe. We are witnessing just that process is Australia right now.

  8. onyerlefty says:

    Thank you Mulga – I have to chuckle everytime I see “forever” in legislation. This is a weak attempt to provide cover for Obama’s OK of Keystone, which will make his fossil fuel cronies billions while destroying everyone’s climate.

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    He hasn’t done it yet! You can either take a Bex, a cuppa tea and a nice lie down OR get out on the streets and let him know what you want, but this sort of speculation is useless, ME

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A Bex???- ME? You must have sturdy kidneys and good renal function.

  11. Ken Barrows says:

    Isn’t the purpose of articles like these to make us feel good about our lifestyles?

  12. Joe Romm says:


  13. Is this supposed to quell our anger over KXL? What an absolute joke. Obama is bought and I’m ashamed for us all.