Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Antiquities Act, Graphed

(Cross-posted in Medium herewhere a higher quality rendering of the graphic can be seen.)

In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, giving executive authority to U.S. Presidents to designate National Monuments on federal lands. Those lands are then provided additional protections from looting, grazing, mining and fossil fuel excavations.

During the past 111 years, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 Presidents to establish or expand 157 National Monuments in 39 states and U.S. territories, preserving over 843 million acres of federal land. The fate of those monuments has varied: some have become National Parks and some have become state parks, while many remain as National Monuments managed by various federal agencies.

Shown here are two bar graphs, illustrated with pertinent details about each of the 157 National Monuments. Data was taken primarily from a National Parks Service website, found here. This data does not include the 45 National Monuments established by Congress, as they are not products of the Antiquities Act.

The first graph presents the monuments in chronological order, from Roosevelt’s first monument in 1906 to the final three monuments established by Obama a week before he left office.

The second graph presents the monuments in order of smallest to largest, from New York’s Old Fort Niagara at a few thousandths of an acre to Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea, which lives up to its long name and covers a few hundred million acres of ocean reefs.

Because of this huge range in sizes among the monuments, a logarithmic scale was used to plot the data. This is important to note because that means that the size values increase exponentially along the x-axis rather than in the linear fashion that most people would be accustomed to seeing when looking at graphs. Using a linear scale to compare this range of data would unfortunately be futile for every monument that isn’t on the same scale as Papahanaumokuakea, and very few of them are.

If you look closely, a few things may stand out. For instance, marine monuments are among the largest and are a recent phenomenon; use of the Antiquities Act has become somewhat partisan in recent decades just like so many other issues; and, no President established more monuments than Obama.

For a focused look at how different Presidents have used the Antiquities Act, please see my recent article in Catalyst Magazine.


National Monuments established under the Antiquities Act, from first to most recent.
National Monuments established under the Antiquities Act, from smallest in size to largest.

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