Court Affirms Presidential Power to Protect Marine Areas as National Monuments

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court unanimously ruled today that presidents have the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish marine national monuments. 

The following is a statement from Kate Desormeau, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Like one of America’s very first national monuments, the Grand Canyon, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is a natural treasure. It provides habitat for a wide range of species, from endangered whales to Atlantic puffins to centuries-old deep-sea corals. Today’s decision affirms that presidents have the authority to protect marine areas like this for the benefit of current and future generations. Preserving ocean areas like this one will be absolutely key to ensuring the resilience of our oceans in a changing climate.” 

The ruling comes in a case in which commercial fishing industry groups challenged President Obama’s designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England, the only marine monument in the U.S. Atlantic, and one of five marine monuments nationwide.

The district court dismissed their claims, holding that the president acted within his authority under the Antiquities Act in creating the monument. Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirms that ruling.

More background on this lawsuit is available here and here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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