October 30, 2017
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, the first major legislation intended to protect and preserve archaeological sites and artifacts in the United States. The Archaeological Institute of America played a key role in drafting and promoting the Antiquities Act. Recognizing that archaeological looting threatened the heritage of the United States, society archaeologists led surveys of looted sites in the American Southwest and used that information to advocate for the Antiquities Act’s passage.
The Antiquities Act addresses the looting of archaeological sites on Federal lands, establishes a permit structure for archaeological investigations, and allows the President of the United States to designate national monuments. Since 1906, Republican and Democratic presidents alike have set aside more than 280 million acres of public lands and waters, creating parks and monuments that protect archaeological sites, provide cultural value to local communities, and offer economic benefits across the nation. The monuments established under the Antiquities Act highlight America’s history and natural wonders.
Today the achievements of the Antiquities Act are at risk. The National Monument Creation and Protection Act, H.R. 3990, erects hurdles that would make it virtually impossible for future presidents to designate national monuments. This bill requires approval of large-scale monument designations by all county commissions, state legislatures, and governors in the area, undermining the original intent of the Antiquities Act—to have the President protect at risk cultural resources in a timely manner. It bars presidents from designating marine national monuments completely and gives them the authority to reduce the size of declared national monuments drastically. H.R. 3990 effectively eliminates the presidential authority established by the Antiquities Act to safeguard heritage for all Americans and citizens of the world.
The measure has already been approved by the House Natural Resources Committee and will come to a vote in the full House. The Archaeological Institute of America opposes H.R. 3990 and asks all members to urge their lawmakers to vote against H.R. 3990.
Discover more about the Antiquities Act: https://archive.archaeology.org/antiquitiesact/
Learn about national monuments near you: https://www.nps.gov/archeology/sites/antiquities/monumentslist.htm
Read the text of H.R. 3990: https://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hr_3990.pdf