Using the 100-year-old Antiquities Act, President Obama followed the lead of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, JFK, George W. Bush, and others, and responded to local demands to permanently protect public lands. Obama designated nine national monuments over the last few years:
· Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado holds great spiritual significance to Pueblo and other tribal communities.
· The San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State protects wildlife habitat and cultural sites on nearly 1,000 acres of public lands, and offers a plethora of recreational opportunities.
· The legacy of a man and a movement has been protected at the César Chávez National Monument in California.
· Sportsmen point to the successful hunting and fishing at Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. The monument’s 240,000 acres of public lands also protect Hispanic and Native American heritage.
· World-class mountain biking and America’s military history are protected at Fort Ord National Monument in California.
· African-American history is protected at the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Fort Monroe National Monument – dubbed “freedom’s fortress” – in Virginia.
· Delaware’s role in the forming of our nation is commemorated at the new First State National Monument, which also protects 1,100-acres of open space at the historic Woodlawn property for families to enjoy.
Protecting these national monuments ensures future generations can learn from and be inspired by America’s story and breathtaking natural landscapes. But it is also an investment in our state and local economies.
Last year, in launching initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States, President Obama said, “Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work.”
According to the U.S. Travel Association, the economic impact of domestic and international visitors totals $2 trillion (includes $855.4 billion in direct travel expenditures in 2012, which spurred in additional $1.1 trillion in other industries). One out of every eight American jobs depends on travel and tourism.
Just as restaurants, hotels, stores, gas stations and Segway-riding tour guides benefit from visitors to the national parks and monuments in Washington, D.C., so do small businesses in our states. Many of the new national monuments and businesses in surrounding communities have already seen increased numbers of visitors. Moreover, research shows that protected public lands like national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas provide a quality of life that lures entrepreneurs and skilled talent to our communities.
When policy-makers put conservation on equal ground with development and tourism marketing investments, our communities and our economies benefit. We encourage the White House and Congress to continue to protect our heritage — and invest in our future.
White is director of the Colorado Tourism Office, Stanton-Masten is executive director of the Washington Tourism Alliance, Amelia is executive director of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development and Beteta is pesident and CEO of Visit California and deputy secretary of Tourism.