National parks are famous for the opportunities they provide to watch incredible wildlife, but did you know that many national monuments are home to spectacular wildlife, too?
National public lands, including national monuments, are jointly owned by all Americans. Using the authority of the Antiquities Act, presidents from both parties have designated national monuments on our public lands in order to protect priceless natural, historic, scientific, and cultural resources. Monument designations are an added layer of protection to existing public lands, and are a vitally important conservation tool. There are times when Congress can’t, or won’t, act to protect a vulnerable area, and local community groups often are able to successfully push for monument designation to achieve protections for irreplaceable wildlife habitat, historic sites, and culturally significant areas.
Let’s get to know some of our national monuments and the wildlife that call these incredible places home!
Admiralty Island National Monument
This national monument in Alaska might not be the easiest to get to, but the rewards for the intrepid traveler willing to make the trek to this area in southeast Alaska are great. This wildlife habitat, full of old-growth rainforest and alpine tundra is home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the world, as well as the greatest concentration of nesting bald eagles. Visitors can also spot humpback whales feeding, harbor seals and porpoises cavorting offshore, and Sitka black-tailed deer bounding through the forest.
Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
Whether you’re a geology buff, a wildlife lover, a bird watcher, or a history aficionado, Utah’s Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument has something to offer. President Bill Clinton designated this national monument in 1996. The 1.9 million acres in this protected area are home to many species of wildlife well-adapted to the challenging terrain and climate of this region. Native wildlife include the desert bighorn sheep, the endangered desert tortoise, peregrine falcons, and the endangered California condor.
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
One of our newest national monuments, Katahdin Woods and Waters protects a stunning swath of mountains, forests, and rivers in northern Maine. If moose, snowshoe hare, Canada lynx, and black bear are on your wildlife check-list then head up to this national monument to go hiking, canoeing, backpacking, or simply exploring as you enjoy these wild northern woods and waters.
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
This rugged, volcanic landscape just north of Taos, New Mexico is home to exceptional whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and wildlife-watching. The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument protects a migration corridor and wintering wildlife habitat for elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, golden eagles, and sandhill cranes. Explore the dramatic landscapes of this national monument, ranging from deep gorges to the stunning Rio Grande and wildflower-filled plains, all nested under the watchful presence of the Ute Mountain.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
First designated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and later expanded in 2016 by President Barack Obama, this extraordinary protected land and seascape is the world’s second largest protected area. Composed of extensive deep water habitats, seamounts, coral reefs, and lagoons, this national monument protects roughly 7,000 species, a quarter of which are endemic – meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. Visitors to this incredible area can witness the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the endangered hawksbill sea turtle, the threatened green sea turtle, and numerous species of birds like the Laysan albatross.