National Monuments and Wilderness

In order to leave a robust wild legacy for our children, we must significantly increase the amount of public lands and waters that are permanently protected as national monuments, and wilderness. It is also crucial that we protect public lands at the state and local levels to so they can connect with adjoining private lands that have conservation easements.

National Monuments

In order to protect areas of ecological, cultural, archeological, and historic significance the president is empowered to create new national monuments by executive order under the Antiquities Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt. These designations not only protect special places, but also stimulate local economies and bring increased job growth. Special places such as the Grand Canyon , Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, and the Statue of Liberty were initially protected as national monuments. Over the past 100 years presidents from both parties have designated over 130 national monuments. By channeling Roosevelt’s legacy, President Obama can protect our national heritage, put Americans back to work, and help rebuild the American Dream.

The Sierra Club applauds President Obama for already designating nine new national monuments, including five in his second term. Yet there remain many special places in need of protection. In order to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy our public lands more must be done to permanently protect our most special places by designating new national monuments.  You can explore areas in need of permanent protection by visiting our My Piece of America site.

Wilderness

Wilderness is perhaps the concept -- and the accomplishment -- most closely associated with the Sierra Club. The Our Wild America campaign continues that proud tradition. As defined in the landmark Wilderness Act of 1964, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System, wilderness is "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

About five percent of the land in the United States -- just under 110 million acres -- is protected as wilderness. But about half of this acreage is in Alaska, meaning only about 2.7 percent of the continental U.S. enjoys wilderness status, and few Americans can access it.

When President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 into law, he added two million acres of wilderness in nine states -- the largest expansion of wilderness lands in over 25 years. But pressures from mining, drilling, logging, and other development -- and the pollution and accelerated climate disruption these activities bring -- make it more imperative than ever that we continue to expand on our wilderness legacy.

We must also protect America's waters and wetlands so that we have clean drinking water, adequate water resources for farms and cities, and a buffer from extreme weather like storms, flooding, drought, and rising sea levels brought on by climate disruption.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Learn more.