Presidents Lack the Authority to Abolish or Diminish National Monuments

Document Type



Virginia Law Review Online




By any measure, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has a remarkable legacy. Under the Act, 16 presidents have proclaimed 157 national monuments, protecting a diverse range of historic, archaeological, cultural, and geologic resources. Many of these monuments, including such iconic places as the Grand Canyon, Zion, Olympic, and Acadia, have been expanded and redesignated by Congress as national parks. While the designation of national monuments is often celebrated, it has on occasion sparked local opposition, and led to calls for a President to abolish or shrink a national monument that was proclaimed by a predecessor. This article examines the Antiquities Act and other statutes, concluding that the President lacks the legal authority to abolish or diminish national monuments. Instead, these powers are reserved to Congress.


See also Mark Squillace, Text of Solicitor Opinions and a Presidential Letter Regarding National Monuments and the Antiquities Act of 1906, available at http://scholar.law.colorado.edu/research-data/4/ and Mark Squillace, The Monumental Legacy of the Antiquities Act of 1906, 37 Ga. L. Rev. 473 (2003), available at http://scholar.law.colorado.edu/articles/508.