(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - President Obama will designate five new national monuments Monday, according to a White House official.
The monuments are the First State National Monument in Delaware; the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington state; Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio; and a monument commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railway in Maryland.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Obama has not officially announced the designations.
"Today's announcement ensures that nearly 1,000 acres of cherished lands in the San Juan Islands will join our nation's most iconic parks, wildlife refuges and landmarks as a permanent, federally protected national monument," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who along with other Washington lawmakers had pushed for the designation for the San Juan Islands.
Jamie Tedesco, executive director of the Taos Green Chamber of Commerce, said in a telephone interview that the designation of roughly 240,000 acres of natural areas and wildlife habitat in northern New Mexico will be a shot in the arm for the region.
Tedesco said studies show the Rio Grande designation will bring $15 million into the economy and 277 jobs.
"National monument designation has shown to bring jobs to an area," Tedesco said. "It just raises the spotlight on it. When you put a national monument tag on something, there's all kinds of promotional advertising going on with that."
The monument designation in Delaware will go to the 1,100-acre Woodlawn property that lies on the banks of the Brandywine River, primarily in Delaware and extending north into Pennsylvania. A 480-acre property on Maryland's Eastern Shore that once included the home of Jacob Jackson, a former neighbor and free black who used coded messages from Tubman to help free her brothers just before they were due to be sold, will also receive monument designation.
"One hundred years after her death, we still look to Harriet Tubman as an American symbol of heroism, equality, justice and self-determination." said Lawrence Selzer, president and CEO of the Conservation Fund, which recently donated the properties to the National Park Service. "President Obama's designation of a national monument honoring her life and legacy will be a testament to Harriet's courageous efforts and the dedicated work of so many to preserve the landscape where she made her mark on history."
The president has faced criticism from some environmentalists and Democrats, including former president Bill Clinton's Interior secretary Bruce Babbitt, for not setting aside enough land for wilderness, while increasing the amount of land available for drilling.
Obama has previously designated four monuments using the Antiquities Act: Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California, Chávez's home and the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America since the early 1970s when Chávez was its president; Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia, a former Army post integral to the history of slavery, the Civil War and the U.S. military; Fort Ord National Monument in California, a former military base; and Chimney Rock in the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado.