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The Law: Presidential Proclamation 6920: Using Executive Power to Set a New Direction for the Management of National Monuments


  • AUTHORS' NOTE: We thank Bob Carp for comments on an earlier draft; Louis Fisher for his always helpful comments and patience; the staff of the National Landscape Conservation System, especially Jeff Jarvis, for their contribution on implementation; and John Leshy for his insight into Proclamation 6920.

Michelle Belco, J.D. is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Houston.

Brandon Rottinghaus is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston and author of the forthcoming book The Provisional Pulpit: Modern Presidential Leadership of Public Opinion.


Scholars in recent years have been interested in the use of presidential proclamations, but the scope and implications of their use have yet to be fully examined. Specifically, the Antiquities Act of 1906 granted the president broad discretionary authority to proclaim national monuments. Presidents have used this power, often despite the consternation of Congress, to implement changes in public policy. In this context, when President Clinton issued Proclamation 6920 to establish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, his use of executive power initiated a significant congressional reaction, even though his delegation of the managing agency, which will have a lasting effect on public lands policy, received little attention. In this article, the authors argue first that, despite congressional efforts to limit the president's discretion to proclaim national monuments under the Antiquities Act, executive power was not curtailed, and second, that by delegating management authority to the Bureau of Land Management, President Clinton laid the groundwork for a new direction for both national monuments and the bureau.