Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Jackson Hole National Monument using powers granted to him by the Antiquities Act of 1906, a coalition of Western landowners attempted to have the act repealed. Their attempt ended in failure when the president refused to sign the bill repealing the act into law.

Summary of Event

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was one of many laws passed during the Progressive Era Progressive Era that influenced conservation and preservation for generations afterward. Under the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt, Congress passed legislation creating the Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other agencies. Progressive legislation ranged from consumer protection laws such as the Delaney Act (creating the Food and Drug Administration) to regulations concerning development in federal reserves. [kw]Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument (Mar. 15, 1943) [kw]Jackson Hole National Monument, Roosevelt Creates (Mar. 15, 1943) [kw]National Monument, Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole (Mar. 15, 1943) [kw]Monument, Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National (Mar. 15, 1943) Jackson Hole National Monument National monuments, U.S.;Jackson Hole Antiquities Act (1906) Conservation;public land Jackson Hole National Monument National monuments, U.S.;Jackson Hole Antiquities Act (1906) Conservation;public land [g]North America;Mar. 15, 1943: Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument[00750] [g]United States;Mar. 15, 1943: Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument[00750] [c]Government and politics;Mar. 15, 1943: Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument[00750] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Mar. 15, 1943: Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument[00750] [c]Environmental issues;Mar. 15, 1943: Roosevelt Creates Jackson Hole National Monument[00750] Roosevelt, Franklin D. [p]Roosevelt, Franklin D.;environmental policy Rockefeller, John D., Jr. McCormack, John W. Robertson, Edward Drury, Newton B. Lacey, John F. Roosevelt, Theodore Mather, Stephen T.

Unlike much other Progressive Era legislation, the Antiquities Act appeared fairly limited in scope. The act was drafted to discourage amateur archaeologists and “pot hunters” from looting artifacts from sites located on federal lands. Section 1 of the act stated that “any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States” could be fined up to $500, imprisoned for up to ninety days, or both.

Legislators hoped that these provisions would stop the wholesale stripping of archaeological sites in the Southwest. The opening of the frontier through mining and ranching was accompanied by a thriving trade in Native American Native Americans;artifacts artifacts. Wild West shows, dime novels, and reports by noted writers such as Mark Twain and Horace Greeley all fired the public’s imagination and contributed to the growing demand for Native American antiquities.

By 1906, pot hunters had destroyed many burial sites and cliff dwellings that had lain undisturbed for centuries. Reputable anthropologists and archaeologists often found the remaining material damaged or unusable. The pot hunters tore down walls, scattered debris, and left a confusing, disheartening mess in their wake. Without government intervention, the archaeological record of the native peoples of the American Southwest could be lost forever. As a result, Congressman John F. Lacey of Iowa introduced legislation giving the president the power to proclaim a site a national monument in 1901, but opponents of the bill managed to delay its passage for five years. After much negotiation, the Lacey Act, or Antiquities Act, passed in 1906.

Section 2 of the act, which gave the president of the United States the power to declare “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” to be national monuments, proved significant for environmental preservation. This section had provoked more controversy than the other provisions in the bill and had slowed the measure’s progress through Congress. Many Westerners had wanted to put a limit on the size of any potential monuments, restricting them, for example, to 350 acres or less. Although section 2 specified that the land area for such monuments would be strictly limited in size, no specific maximum area was written into the law.

Theodore Roosevelt and later chief executives frequently chose to interpret the law in sweeping terms. For example, within two years following the Antiquities Act’s passage into law, Roosevelt invoked its provisions to place the rim of the Grand Canyon off limits to mining. Under Roosevelt’s leadership, Grand Canyon National Monument was created in 1908. Eight years later, Congress passed legislation creating Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon National Park National parks, U.S.;Grand Canyon . The new park included most, but not all, of the land in Grand Canyon National Monument. The shift from monument to park was not insignificant: It entailed the dedication of resources to facilitate tourism and the careful transformation of the landscape to make the canyon accessible. Monument status had merely preserved the area from harm; it had not brought money or resources to the region, nor had it meant that the Park Service would help tourists visiting the Grand Canyon.

Roosevelt had already created several other national monuments National monuments, U.S. before he acted to preserve the Grand Canyon. The first site to receive such status under the Antiquities Act was Devils Tower Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, a massive stone outcropping rising 857 feet above the surrounding countryside. Working from a list prepared by the secretaries of agriculture, the interior, and war, Roosevelt declared three additional national monuments in 1906: Petrified Forest and Montezuma Castle in Arizona, and El Morro in New Mexico. Succeeding administrations also took advantage of the Antiquities Act to preserve sites throughout the country. For example, President William H. Taft created the Colorado National Monument in 1911, and President Herbert Hoover proclaimed the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado a monument in 1933.

Although some lawmakers questioned the necessity of the Antiquities Act, it remained relatively unchallenged until 1943. At that time, a situation arose that threatened to lead either to the repeal of the Antiquities Act or to amendments that could seriously weaken it. The area around Jackson Hole, Wyoming, had long been viewed as a possible addition to Yellowstone National Park. As early as 1898, Congressman Lacey had introduced legislation to extend the park’s boundaries. Various plans were advanced over the years, but the government lacked the funds to buy private landholdings in the region.

In 1924, Stephen T. Mather, director of the National Park Service National Park Service, U.S. , persuaded millionaire John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to buy land in Jackson Hole for donation to the government at a later date. Rockefeller’s agents quietly formed the Snake River Land Company Snake River Land Company and discreetly purchased land, taking care to pay its fair market value. By 1933, the land company had acquired more than thirty-five thousand acres, which, when added to federal lands, meant that more than 92 percent of the property in the Jackson Hole area could be placed under Park Service control.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his wife tour the Grand Tetons. Congressional gridlock arising from the Rockefellers’ interest in the proposed Grand Teton National Park led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943.

When the Park Service approached Congress with a plan to create Grand Teton National Park, however, it encountered resistance. A series of claims and counterclaims about Rockefeller’s interest in the area arose. Strange and continually shifting alliances among cattle ranchers, preservationists, and the Forest Service prevented the measure from passing for a decade. Finally, after he had observed ten years of wrangling over Jackson Hole, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s patience apparently wore thin. Rather than wait any longer for Congress to act, he proclaimed Jackson Hole a national monument on March 15, 1943.

The antipark forces reacted immediately. Senator Edward Robertson of Wyoming rushed a bill into committee amending the Antiquities Act to eliminate the possibility of any future presidential proclamations, as well as revoking the national monument status of Jackson Hole. The Senate debated the proposed legislation, with many senators agreeing with its proposed limitations on presidential powers. As discussion intensified in both houses of Congress, Representative John W. McCormack spoke out, defending the president’s actions. McCormack and others emphasized the partisan nature of the debate: Republicans were solidly in favor of amending the act, and Democrats were opposed. Public interest groups spoke out both for and against the amendments, with the Sierra Club among those opposed.

When the bill came up for a vote, it passed without discussion on the last day before the Christmas recess. Because the bill passed within ten days of Congress’ adjournment, it would become law only if the president signed it. (Bills passed earlier in a congressional session automatically become law if not explicitly vetoed by the president; they do not require his signature.) Roosevelt chose not to sign the bill, thereby exercising what is known as a “pocket veto.” His inaction effectively nullified the amendments to the Antiquities Act.

Senator Robertson and others tried to revive the issue in succeeding sessions of Congress, but they found that the controversy driving Congress to act in 1943 was short-lived. Their subsequent attempts to repeal the Antiquities Act therefore failed to attract the same level of support as had their initial attempt. Although the creation of other national monuments has occasionally proved controversial, none has been as polarizing as Jackson Hole.


The Jackson Hole incident, in which the authority of the Antiquities Act enabled the president to put an end to the seemingly endless debate in Congress with one simple proclamation, served as a demonstration of the importance of the act. The act allows the president to move decisively to preserve threatened areas. It permits the president to act independently.

This ability to overcome congressional gridlock was one of the original motivations for the legislation. The conservationists and preservationists who had lobbied for passage of the Antiquities Act in 1906 had recognized the need for the president to act quickly and firmly in controversial or emergency situations. The power given to the president to bypass Congress was limited, since the president was unable to impart national park status—and the financial and other resources that status entailed—to an area. The president’s monument-making power was more modest than Congress’ power to create a national park.

That Congress failed to amend the Antiquities Act in 1943 or in subsequent years illustrates that the majority of members of Congress continued to agree that such action might still occasionally be desirable. In addition, despite the many disagreements over the merits of the Jackson Hole monument, most lawmakers realized that declaring an area a national monument did not mean it had to remain one. In some cases, as in the case of Jackson Hole, the site might later be made a national park. In others, sites could remain monuments indefinitely or, depending upon the merits of the site, have their management revert to the state or local government. In any event, Congress always retained the power to revoke a site’s designation as either a national park or a national monument.

As originally conceived, the Antiquities Act was meant to provide protection, often of an emergency nature. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt had both had this function foremost in their minds when they invoked the act. There have been few other occasions when presidents have used the act to intervene in this fashion, but such action is not unheard-of. In 1969, for example, President Lyndon B. Johnson Johnson, Lyndon B. [p]Johnson, Lyndon B.;environmental policy created Marble Canyon National Monument Marble Canyon National monuments, U.S.;Marble Canyon on the Colorado River, stopping all dam development and giving environmentalists time to persuade Congress to extend the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. Just as Roosevelt had in the Jackson Hole case, Johnson intervened after years of increasingly acrimonious debate in Congress failed to achieve results. That episode illustrates how the Antiquities Act provides a safety net for preserving the nation’s historic and natural resources. Jackson Hole National Monument National monuments, U.S.;Jackson Hole Antiquities Act (1906) Conservation;public land

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bennett, Ross, ed. The New America’s Wonderlands. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1975. Wonderful color photographs. A concise history of the National Park Service, including a discussion of legislation that precedes brief descriptions of parks and monuments.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cutright, Paul Russell. Theodore Roosevelt, the Naturalist. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956. Examines Roosevelt’s interest in wildlife and natural history and provides a context for much of his work on conservation issues.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Daugherty, John, with Stephanie Crockett, William H. Goetzmann, and Reynold G. Jackson. A Place Called Jackson Hole: The Historic Resource Study of Grand Teton National Park. Moose, Wyo.: National Park Service, 1999. Detailed study of the history of Jackson Hole, before and after its elevation to national park status. Maps, bibliographic references, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Foresta, Ronald A. America’s National Parks and Their Keepers. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future, 1984. Describes the legislation behind the National Park Service.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Howland, Harold. Theodore Roosevelt and His Times. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1921. Brief history of Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Era. Interesting in that the author’s perspective is that of a contemporary of Roosevelt.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Matthews, William H., III. A Guide to the National Parks. Garden City, N.Y.: Natural History Press, 1968. Focuses primarily on national parks, although it contains a brief section with visitors’ information for national monuments.

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Johnson Establishes North Cascades National Park

Natural Resources Defense Council Is Founded

Categories: History