National Monuments Protection


The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the President the authority to establish National Monuments in already federally managed public lands through presidential proclamation. National Monuments preserve areas that are naturally, culturally, or scientifically significant, generally protecting them from development or resource extraction. Like many National Parks, National Monuments tend to encompass Indigenous ancestral lands and even former Native reservations, key wildlife and plant habitats, and dramatic geologic features and fossils.

Nevada’s most recent National Monuments include Tule Springs Fossil Beds, Gold Butte, and Basin & Range. Tule Springs was designated through Congressional action, while the latter two were designated by President Obama in the final years of his Administration after extensive public comment. The current administration is seeking to remove protections from several National Monuments, including Gold Butte.

Key Facts

  • For over a century, the Antiquities Act has been used more than 100 times by Republican and Democratic presidents alike. Legal scholars agree that while the Act delegates limited powers to the President, it does not authorize the revocation of National Monument declarations.
  • Gold Butte and Basin & Range contain thousands of petroglyphs and have been home to Southern Paiutes since time immemorial. National Monuments keep public spaces open for outdoor recreation while preserving land as Traditional Lifeway Areas for Nevada’s Indigenous communities.
  • The Moapa Band of Paiutes and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribes led efforts to achieve federal protections for their ancestral lands in Gold Butte. And a diverse group of stakeholders from tourism leaders to tribal nations to youth groups urged President Obama to protect Gold Butte and Basin & Range National Monuments.
  • A Conservation in the West poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Nevadans (81%) want to keep their National Monuments as they are.


In 2017, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a “review” of recently designated National Monuments. The review solicited comments from the public, resulting in the submission of nearly 2.7 million comments from Americans mostly expressing support for keeping National Monuments intact. Later that year, Secretary Zinke and President Trump announced major changes to several National Monuments, including those in Utah and Nevada. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments have seen drastic reductions in their acreage and protections. Basin & Range National Monument will remain as is, however Gold Butte National Monument is expected to undergo yet-unspecified boundary adjustments.

Policy Recommendations

Gold Butte and Basin & Range National Monuments merit federal protection. Any attempt to reduce or alter these Monuments is an affront to Nevada families, Native tribes, and legal precedent. Congress must protect these Monuments for current and future generations. In late 2017, Senator Udall of Colorado proposed a new bill, the ANTIQUITIES Act of 2017, which would permanently enshrine the Antiquities Act of 1906 and undo the Trump Administration’s changes to National Monuments. Senator Cortez Masto has signed on as a cosponsor, and needs additional support from her Senate colleagues.

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