The New York Times just posted this terrific opinion piece by Douglas Brinkley about President Obama’s designation of numerous national monuments, which a president can do unilaterally under the Antiquities Act (in comparison, it takes an act of Congress to create a national park). National monument status provides protection for lands, waters, and landmarks, often for their ecological and scenic value but sometimes for their cultural value. President Obama has protected more public lands and waters than any president in history. Most recently, he set aside 87,000 acres as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine and quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, protecting over half a million square miles of sensitive ocean environment. The marine monument, which is nearly the size of Alaska, is the world’s largest, and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument neighbors Baxter State Park, effectively enlarging that important preserve in the wild woods of North Maine. Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The Times article gives a concise history of how presidents have used the Antiquities Act to create national monuments and offers suggestions for additional areas in need of protection. It’s very much worth a read, and the photos are pure eye candy for those who love the outdoors.