Obama the Monument Maker

Wild landscapes are not the only places that have been protected by our President. Barack Obama has also pushed the National Park Service to be more multicultural in interpreting America’s past. Toward that end, he has established history-minded national monuments honoring César E. Chávez in California; Harriet Tubman in Maryland; the Stonewall Inn in New York; Belmont-Paul, home to the National Woman’s Party, in Washington, D.C.; and the Honouliuli Internment Camp, where Japanese-Americans were held during World War II. These places are reminders of the struggles for equality and dignity that have been part of the nation’s history. (The New York Times | Sunday Review | Douglas Brinkley, 8/27/2016)

[As president, Barack Obama has visited more than 30 national parks and emerged as a 21st-century Theodore Roosevelt for his protection of public lands and marine reserves. His use of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives a president unilateral authority to protect federal lands as national monuments, has enabled him to establish 23 new monuments, more than any other president, and greatly expand a few others.

On Wednesday, he set aside some 87,000 acres of federal land along the Penobscot River in north-central Maine as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The action will safeguard the wild country around the 5,267-foot Mount Katahdin, the state’s highest peak. Then, on Friday, he announced a fourfold expansion of a marine monument designated by President George W. Bush off the coast of Hawaii.]

PARKS

[In 1907, the San Francisco Bay Area businessman William Kent presented the first President Roosevelt with a 295-acre old-growth redwood grove in Marin County, Calif. Today it is Muir Woods National Monument. In 1943, the second President Roosevelt accepted a gift of 222,000 acres in western Wyoming from John D. Rockefeller Jr. The president designated the pristine valley Jackson Hole National Monument, later incorporated into Grand Teton National Park.

Only a fool would argue that the Roosevelts were wrong to have saved those scenic wonders. The same can be said of President Obama’s actions last week.

Teddy Roosevelt became the first president to use the Antiquities Act when he set aside Devils Tower in Wyoming. Two years later, he protected more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon, offering this rationale as development threatened to overrun it: “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Since preserving Devils Tower, he and 14 of his successors have designated some 150 national monuments.]

SCORE BOARD

[Wild landscapes are not the only places that have been protected. President Obama has also pushed the National Park Service to be more multicultural in interpreting America’s past. Toward that end, he has established history-minded national monuments honoring César E. Chávez in California; Harriet Tubman in Maryland; the Stonewall Inn in New York; Belmont-Paul, home to the National Woman’s Party, in Washington, D.C.; and the Honouliuli Internment Camp, where Japanese-Americans were held during World War II. These places are reminders of the struggles for equality and dignity that have been part of the nation’s history.]

Article by Douglas Brinkley , a history professor at Rice University and the author of “Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America.”

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