WASHINGTON, DC, March 25, 2013 (ENS) – President Barack Obama today signed proclamations establishing five national monuments located in Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington, using his authority under the Antiquities Act.

“These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country,” said President Obama. “By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come.”

The designations were made with bi-partisan support from congressional, state and local officials, local businesses and other stakeholders and are expected to promote economic growth in the local communities through tourism and outdoor recreation.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, “From the treasured landscapes of northern New Mexico and Washington, to the historic sites in Delaware, to the sites that show our nation’s path from Civil War to civil rights, these monuments help tell the rich and complex story of our nation’s history and natural beauty.”

According to the National Parks and Conservation Association study in 2006 each federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public. National parks are responsible for $13.3 billion dollars of local, private-sector economic activity nationwide, supporting 267,000 private-sector jobs. Outdoor recreation alone generates $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs in the United States each year, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

“There’s no doubt that these monuments will serve as economic engines for the local communities through tourism and outdoor recreation – supporting economic growth and creating jobs,” said Salazar.

The five monuments are:

First State National Monument in Delaware. The monument will tell the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, as well as Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Until today, Delaware has been the only state without a national park.

Woodlawn property

The Woodlawn property is now part of Delaware’s First State National Monument (Photo by Jim Graham courtesy The Conservation Fund)

The newly designated monument includes three areas related to Delaware’s history: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex, and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley. The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

“Delaware’s important contributions to the founding of the United States, including its role as the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, make it a significant addition to the National Park System,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “We are grateful for the support of The Conservation Fund, Mt. Cuba Center, the Woodlawn Trustees and the State of Delaware in making this new national monument a reality.”

An unprecedented $20 million donation by Mt. Cuba Center, a non-profit horticultural institution, made it possible for The Conservation Fund to preserve the Woodlawn property and donate it to the National Park Service, making possible its designation as a national monument. For more than a century, the land has been managed as a wildlife preserve and open space for public recreation.

Originally acquired by William Penn from the Duke of York in 1682, the 1,100-acre Woodlawn property lies on the banks of the Brandywine River in Delaware and extending north into Pennsylvania. Nearby, in 1777, General George Washington’s troops defended against British forces in the largest battle of the American Revolution.

“This is not the finish line, but it’s a very good step toward the end goal, which is a National Park for Delaware,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. “Before today, Delaware was the only state in our great nation not in the national park system, which through its parks and monuments brings at least $1 million, if not much more, in tourism and economic development to each state with a park or monument every year.

“The First State national monument would not be possible without the steadfast support of Senator Carper, who, along with the entire Delaware delegation, and Vice President Joe Biden, has spent years championing this park site’s development,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.

“Today, President Obama fulfilled a vision set more than a century ago by William Poole Bancroft, who purchased the land just north of downtown Wilmington and less than an hour from Philadelphia, with the foresight of preserving an urban oasis in the Brandywine Creek corridor,” Kiernan said.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio. The monument will preserve the home of Col. Charles Young (1864–1922), a distinguished officer in the United States Army who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of Colonel. Young also served as one of the early Army superintendents of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks, before the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916.

Young house

The Colonel Charles Young House in Greene County, Ohio (Photo by Nyttend)

The national headquarters of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, of which Col. Young was a member, made the property available for acquisition by the federal government for the purpose of establishing the national monument commemorating Young’s life and accomplishments.

The story of the Buffalo Soldiers’ bravery and service is not fully told at any existing national park sites, said President Obama in his proclamation of the new monument. In 1866, the Congress established six all-black regiments, later consolidated to four, to help rebuild the country after the Civil War and to patrol the remote western frontier during the “Indian Wars.”

“According to legend, American Indians called the black cavalry troops ‘buffalo soldiers’ because of their dark, curly hair, which resembled a buffalo’s coat. Aware of the buffalo’s fierce bravery and fighting spirit, the African-American troops accepted the name with pride and honor,” President Obama wrote in the proclamation.

The Buffalo Soldiers were an important part of the early history of America’s national parks. Before the Congress created the National Park Service in 1916, the U.S. Army played a critical role in administering several parks. The Army sent the Buffalo Soldiers stationed at the Presidio to manage Yosemite, General Grant, and Sequoia National Parks in California. The Buffalo Soldiers blazed park trails, built roads, produced maps, extinguished fires and kept poachers and loggers at bay.

The monument, located in Wilberforce, Ohio, will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland. The monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who was responsible for helping enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom.

Stewart's Canal

Stewart’s Canal on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

The new national park, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad.

The park includes Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand by free and enslaved people between 1810 and the 1830s and where Tubman learned outdoor skills when she worked in the nearby timbering operations with her father.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument also includes the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black man who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others.

The monument will partner with the State of Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center when it opens in 2015.

The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

Lands that are part of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, although part of the new national monument, will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. In far northern New Mexico, the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River flows through a deep gorge at the edge of the expanse of the Taos Plateau. Canyons, volcanic cones, wild rivers, and native grasslands serve as vital wildlife habitat and feature unique geologic resources as well as imprints of human passage over the past 10,000 years.

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge (Photo by Daniel Schwen)

The images carved into the gorge’s dark basalt cliffs and the artifacts scattered across the forested slopes of the volcanic cones bear testimony to the human use of the area.

The Rio Grande gorge lies within the traditional area of the nearby Taos and Picuris Pueblos, as well as the Jicarilla Apache and Ute Tribes.

Carved into the boulders and cliffs are hundreds of images ranging from swirls and dots to human and animal figures.

Dense collections of petroglyphs are found near the hot springs that bubble up in the heart of the gorge, some dating back to the Archaic Period, which began about 7,500 BC and lasted until 500 AD.

The area features spectacular landscapes and opportunities for rafting, fishing and hiking. It is inhabited by eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls, Rocky Mountain elk and bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, black bear, red fox, cougar, and bobcat.

The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which currently manages the more than 240,000 acres of the monument.

San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington. The San Juan Islands is a chain of 450 islands, rocks and pinnacles located in Washington State’s Puget Sound inhabited by bald eagles, orca whales, harbor seals and the threatened marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests only in old-growth forests.

Lopez Island

Shark Reef Park on Lopez Island, Washington (Photo by Clayoquot)

The islands are part of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. Native people first used the area near the end of the last glacial period, about 12,000 years ago.

Ancient bison skeletons, between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, have been found in several areas, although no bison live there today. Terrestrial mammals include black-tail deer, river otter, mink, several bats, and the Shaw Island vole. Terrestrial birds include the recently reintroduced western bluebird. The island marble butterfly, once thought to be extinct, clings to survival in a small population on the San Juan Islands.

A number of historic lighthouses are located on the islands. The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Jamie Williams, president of the nonprofit Wilderness Society, said, “The historic and peaceful public lands in Washington State’s San Juan Islands will be forever enjoyed by future generations. The 1,000-acre San Juan Islands National Monument will continue to spur the local economy, which depends on the outstanding natural beauty and cultural landmarks for its tourism and recreation.”

President of American Rivers, Bob Irvin, said, “We commend President Obama for his leadership and vision in protecting five new national monuments that will safeguard historic, cultural, and natural treasures for future generations. Two of the monuments, the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, honor the importance of rivers to our nation’s history, culture, and environment.”

President Obama has previously designated four monuments using the Antiquities Act. These include the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California; Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia; Fort Ord National Monument in California; and Chimney Rock, in the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado.

First exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the authority of the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents since 1906 to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The designation of the monuments builds on President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which The White House says “fosters a 21st century approach to conservation that responds to the priorities of the American people.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.