To The Readers: Today, under President Donald Trump, many state and national parks are in danger due to amounts of oil and coal found in these areas. Scientists at these state parks are now required to destroy their research, not publish the readings they gather on the environments they are tasked with watching over and allow for excessive amounts of tourism into these areas. These parks are in danger and whether one is a conservationist or a preservationist the modern model of a national park does not fit either ideal. We hope, after looking over our work you will support the protection of our parks, those who work for those parks, and the information they research and gather.


Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act was passed on June 8, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt during his second term, after concerns were raised about protecting Native American sites called “antiquities.” The claim was aimed to protect the artifacts from collectors stealing the artifacts. In 1902, Congressman John F. Lacey and anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett went to many sites of interest in the Southwest to see the extent of the damage from “pot hunters.” Due to these findings and the extensive pleas from Hewett, it made it easier for the legislation to pass through Congress. The passing of this act gave President Roosevelt and future Presidents to claim landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic interest in federal ownership as national monuments. Roosevelt quickly took advantage of his legislature and deemed 4 national monuments in 1906. The Antiquities Act also allows for Congress to form national parks with or without the approval of the President. These proclamations gave the federal government the power to protect lands that were deemed naturally, culturally, or scientifically significant. The act states the intent “… the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest.” The act made it quicker than it was before. Before the act was passed, Congress would go through the process. After the act, the President could make a site a National Park and Congress could still go through the process for any site. Any discrepancy in the act has repeatedly been upheld by stating the act gives the President nearly total discretion to what or how much of the land should be protected.

There have been two reductions in powers of this act. Following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of the Jackson Hole National Monument, there was a significant amount of pushback from Wyoming legislators. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used a veto that would have dismantled the Jackson Hole National Monument. It was not until President Harry S. Truman merged Jackson Hole National Monument into the Grand Teton National Park, that the Jackson Hole National Memorial got dismantled. This event restricted the power the President has in Wyoming. The second occurrence happened when President Jimmy Carter tried to create a large amount of National Monuments in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was passed by Congress in 1980. The ANILCA was passed to require Congress to ratify the use of the Antiquities Act for land claims over 5000 acres. There may be more upcoming reductions of power in the Antiquities Act as President Donald J. Trump’s administration is questioning all monuments formed after the year 1996. Although some Presidents have abstained from the preservation process, no Presidents have modified or removed National Monuments that were created under the Antiquities Act.

Preservation versus Conservation

Hetchy Hetchy Valley today
Hetchy Hetchy Valley (1906)

Conservationists and Preservationists are often looked at as the same thing, they are environmentalists who wish to save the ecology of the world we live on. This is untrue. Conservation focuses on the use and proper management of resources, while preservationist ideas include avoiding  affecting the land completely. Early preservationists like John Muir believed this so important, that it was important to push American Indians of this land in order to preserve it. Conservationists such as Gifford Pinchot learned forestry skills in Europe and believed resources such as lumber were important. In order to maintain our ecology, however, we must watch how much we deforest and properly replant in order to not destroy the environmental systems. Theodore Roosevelt would be considered a conservationist based on his political actions. These ideas may not seem very different, but there was an extreme fighting of ideology in 1906 over building a water dam in Yosemite national park.

In 1906 San Francisco suffered through a very powerful earthquake that was followed by many fires. The city was flattened, but the inhabitants of the city set off rebuilding less than 24 hours after the quake had stopped and the fires were under control. In this stage of rebuilding, there was a desire for upgrading the cities water system, it had previously been taking water from streams, rivers, and lakes nearby, but the population of the city had become too great that they needed a larger water source. The city hired a handful of engineers to go out plot locations inside the Sierra Nevada mountains where river ways traveled west. The engineers picked out 10 locations and labeled them between 1 and 10 to signify the best possible location to the worst. Number 1 on that list was Hetch Hetchy Valley. 

Hetch Hetchy Valley was one of the sibling valleys that made up Yosemite National Park the other one being Tuolumne River, which today is the main attraction at Yosemite National Park. Hearing of this news John Muir was horrified and went to Congress with the intention of protecting Yosemite. He gave a famous speech, however, his old conservationist friends Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot disagreed with Muir stating that the needs of the many in San Francisco were too important to ignore. This drove the conservationists and the estimated preservationist apart and this instance is a strong representation of the differences these two sides had at the time and persist to this day. This situation helped distinguish the difference between Conservationists and Preservationists. Preservationists put the world before themselves, while Conservationists attempt to take from that world and emphasis minimizing damage. 

Before Hetch Hetchy, Preservation and Conservation weren’t considered very different because we were in a time of repair. To exemplify, there was no debate between conserving the buffalo population and preserving it because they were endangered and conservation of the species could not be reached if they were not preserved from men like Grinnell. Unlike in the early 1900s when Buffalo were a protected species, today Buffalo can be hunted and their population is watched and maintained.

The First National Parks and Monuments





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“John Muir: A Brief Biography.” John Muir Biography – John Muir Exhibit. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/muir_biography.aspx.

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Chrono-Biographical Sketch: Frank M. Chapman, people.wku.edu/charles.smith/chronob/CHAP1864.htm.

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The USDA Forest Service: The First Century, USDA Forest Service Office of Communication, Washington, D.C., www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/media/2015/06/The_USDA_Forest_Service_TheFirstCentury.pdf

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