President Obama used executive authority Friday to create three new national monuments in California, Texas and Nevada, further adding acreage under federal protection for an administration that had already designated more such land than any other presidency.
With the 704,000 acres of the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, 331,000 acres of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in northern California and a smaller plot of the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas, Obama has designated 260 million acres of water, wilderness, parks and monuments.
"Together, the new monuments protect over one million acres of public land. These monuments will also provide a boost to local economies by attracting visitors and generating more revenue and jobs for local communities, further supporting an outdoor recreation industry that already generates $646 billion in consumer spending each year," the White House said.
After years of environmental groups criticizing Obama for acting too little on conservation early in his presidency, Obama has now come to view the matter as part of a means to leave a legacy on climate and the environment.
"By creating these three new national monuments, President Obama is continuing his commitment to preserving America's treasured places and cementing his well-deserved place in conservation history," League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in a statement.
Obama has used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish and expand those areas. The administration has contended it's acting where Congress won't.
But Republican critics say the Congress has passed legislation to approve more public lands protections — it's just that the administration has disagreed with condition that permit continued cattle grazing and other economic activity. They've slammed the White House for using the Antiquities Act to go around the legislative body.