Review: The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation

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Review: The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation By David Harmon, Francis P. McManamon, and Dwight T. Pitcaithley (Eds.) Reviewed by Byron Anderson Northern Illinois University, USA Harmon, David, McManamon, Francis P. and Pitcaithley, Dwight T. (Eds.). The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2006. 326 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8165-2561-2 (paper); US$19.95; 978-0- 8165-2560-7 (hardcover), US$45.00.

The most important law for archaeological and historical preservation and nature conservation, the Antiquities Act, is little known. Yet the Act is unsurpassed in the preservation of our nation's cultural and natural resources. The Antiquities Act covers the first one hundred years of the Act but begins before that time with events leading up to its signing in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt wasted little time in making use of the Act, creating the first national monument, Devil's Tower in Wyoming, in September of 1906, and seventeen more during his presidency, including the Grand Canyon, one of many national monuments that went on to receive national park status.

The book details the Act's legal milestones established under the thirteen presidents (through the Clinton era) who utilized the legislation to preserve 123 landmarks covering nearly 80 million acres. Preserved sites range from very small, such as the President Lincoln and Soldier's Home in Washington DC, to very large, like the 10.9 million acre Wrangell-St. Alias area in Alaska. The Act "gives the president of the United States the power to unilaterally declare, independently of Congress, protected national monuments from tracts of existing federal public land..." (p. 2). The Act's name is an understatement, since it protects not only archaeological sites, but also sites of historic preservation and nature conservation. …