If you’ve ever wanted to be one of the first to visit a new national monument, you better hurry! President Joe Biden recently put pen to paper to form an additional unit of the National Park Service.
So where is it, and what do these changes mean for locals and visitors?
Today, we’re diving into America’s newest national monument and why it’s worth visiting.
Let’s dive in!
Arizona Has a New National Monument Encompassing 917,000 Acres
On August 8, 2023, President Joe Biden designated his fifth national monument since taking office. Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni, or the Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, is the newest of its kind. While this just hit the headlines, the administration has worked on it for several months.
It isn’t a step they’ve taken lightly. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland joined community leaders for a ten-mile trek. She described her experience to CNN as “one of the most meaningful trips of my life.” Haaland and many others have been fighting to protect the area for some time.
For many Indigenous people, the grounds are sacred. They’ve longed for the federal government to do its part to protect their homeland. The site has played significant roles in Native American and American history.
About the New National Monument
The new national monument contains three areas to the northwest, northeast, and south of Grand Canyon National Park. In total, it includes 917,618 acres and diverse plants and animals.
Some common wildlife you can spot here are pronghorn, elk, bison, and mountain lions. However, there are also lesser-known critters like the chisel-toothed kangaroo rat and the Kaibab monkey grasshopper.
In addition to the wildlife, the landscapes contain many creeks and streams leading to the Colorado River. This river provides water for millions of people throughout the Southwest.
The monument’s creation establishes a partnership between the federal government and Native nations. They’ll work together as co-stewards of the land. Many see it as a way of taking steps toward healing wrongs from the past. President Biden used his authority under the Antiquities Act to sign the order.
What Is the Antiquities Act?
Congress passed the Antiquities Act in 1906. It gives the president the power to develop public lands as national monuments. These are typically areas of historical, cultural, and scientific value.
Settlers moving westward were the primary cause of its creation. During this time, many people discovered archeological sites and other artifacts. Concern grew over the land and the findings that could have historical significance.
When a president designates a national monument, it receives increased protection and management. This helps prevent further damage to the land and its resources.
Since its creation, the Antiquities Act has established more than 300 of these units. Grand Canyon, Acadia, and Bryce Canyon national parks originated from the act. Unfortunately, it’s been the subject of controversy.
Many feel it gives Congress too much power. However, it’s also gone a long way to protect precious resources. Like many things, there are pros and cons.
Why Is the New National Monument Important to Tribal Nations?
For some time, the Native nations surrounding Grand Canyon National Park have requested President Biden’s assistance. The Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition contains representatives from 13 different Indigenous groups. The nearly one million acres have been vital to their people for many.
It’s more than just beautiful landscapes. The area has been a part of their lives and religious practices for thousands of years. You can find more than 3,000 cultural and historical sites within its boundaries. Indigenous Americans have a deep connection with the land that’s hard for outsiders to understand.
As mentioned earlier, the new national monument will be a co-stewardship between the federal government and tribal leadership. As the president said in his address, the team will “help right the wrongs of the past and conserve this land.”
Officials are still assembling the structure and framework for oversight. We look forward to seeing how the two groups work together to protect the sites.
How Will the New National Monument Designation Affect Land Use?
The ink is hardly dry from President Biden’s signing, but many worry it’ll affect land use. However, it seems those concerns are largely unfounded.
In a briefing, the White House said camping, hiking, biking, and other recreational activities remain unchanged. It also states hunting and fishing are allowed, including in the Kanab Creek area. So, at least for now, you can still enjoy the monument’s fantastic recreational opportunities.
Those with existing livestock grazing permits and leases also have nothing to worry about. Officials are respecting these permits, as well as existing mining claims. Currently, two mining operations are within the boundaries. They can continue to operate as they have since signing a 20-year agreement in 2012.
Upgrades and maintenance can continue as well. This includes changes to control floods, establish utilities, and other uses. But, they must be consistent with the monument’s objectives.
Learn more about Grand Canyon National Park: The Complete Guide.
Put This Destination on Your Itinerary
The creation of a new national monument should be exciting for everyone. This land is not only sacred but some of the most stunning on the face of the planet.
We know one place we’ll visit the next time we’re near the Grand Canyon. Add it to your bucket list and experience it before the secret gets out and crowds start forming!
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