Much digital ink has been spilled in the last couple of weeks over the report of Secretary of Interior Zinke and his recommendation to reduce the size of a few National Monuments in western states. But so far, unless I missed it somewhere, there hasn’t been any notice of the three new monuments he proposes to the president. From the Department of Interior website:
- Add three new national monuments – Secretary Zinke recommended beginning a process to consider three new national monuments: The Badger II Medicine Area (Montana), Camp Nelson (Kentucky), and the Medgar Evers Home (Mississippi).
Clicking through to the linked text of Zinke’s report, we find this on page 19:
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 included direction to NPS to conduct several
special resource studies for civil rights sites in Mississippi. While each location is of interest,
one location to highlight is the Medgar Evers Home in Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Medgar Evers
was the first National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field
secretary in Mississippi and organized protests and boycotts against segregation across
Mississippi. He was assassinated outside his home in 1963 by a white supremacist. The NPS in
2017 designated his house as a National Historic Landmark. I recommend these sites be
examined for possible monument designation.
Zinke’s report references a “special resource study for civil rights sites in Mississippi,” which Thomas Rosell noted had been funded by Congress in the News Roundup of 4-4-2017. Typically, a special resource study allows the National Park Service to look closely at a group of sites that have a similar theme and parse out which are the strongest and have the most potential to be National Park Service sites. These studies usually take about two years, so our civil rights study probably won’t be completed and submitted to Congress until sometime in 2019.
Something that’s strange about this list of three possible new monuments is that typically National Monuments are already owned by the federal government–in fact, the other two sites proposed for monument status are federal properties–but the Evers House (more properly named the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House, as it is known on the National Historic Landmark nomination) is owned by Tougaloo College, a private institution. I would think that before a president could declare the Evers house a National Monument, the house would have to be acquired by the federal government.
What is a National Monument and how is it different from a National Park? Wikipedia tells us,
A National Monument in the United States is a protected area that is similar to a United States National Park, but can be created from any land owned or controlled by the federal government[a] by proclamation of the President of the United States.
National monuments can be managed by one of several federal agencies: the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Bureau of Land Management. Historically, some national monuments were managed by the War Department.
After a generation-long effort, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, thus establishing the first general legal protection of cultural and natural resources in the United States. The Act set important precedents, including the assertion of a broad public interest in archeology on public lands, as well as support for the care and management of archeological sites, collections, and information. The act linked the protection of sites and their appropriate, scientific excavation with public programs to care for and provide public interpretation of artifact collections and information from the study of a site and its contents. (Read more about the Antiquities Act of 1906 and find a link to the act itself.)
Although both monuments and parks fall under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the primary difference between a National Monument and a National Park is that the former can be unilaterally designated by the President, while it takes an act of Congress to establish a new National Park.
There are currently no National Monuments in Mississippi, but you can see a list of all of them at the NPS website along with stats on which presidents designated the most Monuments.