Even as President Obama highlights impending cuts to national parks because of the sequester, he plans to use his power as president to designate five new national monuments Monday, according to an administration official.

The new monuments will be: the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State; the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania; the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio and a monument commemorating Harriet Tubman and her role in helping black slaves reach freedom through the the Underground Railway in Maryland.

Rick Smith, of the Coalition of National Park Retirees, said that the president acted because Congress had failed to enact legislation creating more parks and protected sites.

“Americans support and want more parks and monuments because they boost local economies, preserve our national heritage and tell our diverse American story,” Mr. Smith told the paper. “In particular, all Americans can be proud with the establishment of the First State National Monument in Delaware — all 50 states are now home to an area included in our National Park System.”

Mr. Obama will use the Antiquities Act, a law dating back to 1906, to designate the national monuments. Sixteen presidents have used the law — from Theodore Roosevelt to Mr. Obama — to protect natural, historical and cultural areas, but recent Republican Presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon have preferred to allow Congress to make those designations.

Despite budget cuts and Mr. Obama’s dire warnings of the disruptive economic impact of the sequester in recent weeks, a coalition of local leaders and small business owners say the new monuments, especially the Rio Grande del Norte and the San Juan Islands designations, will have a positive impact on the local economies.

Continue reading →