Sean will present our Spring 2016 Hollis Lecture in Environmental Studies.
Wallace Stegner called National Parks the “best idea [America] ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” The National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year but it is a less well known law, the Antiquities Act, that has been the genesis of not only more than 25% of the National Parks but most of the lands set aside over the last three decades. Signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act has been used by every President since then to permanently protect some of America’s most treasured and unique resources and their significant cultural, historic and scientific values. The exercise of that executive authority has almost always been met with opposition from any number of interests at the time of the designation and that is as true today as it was in 1908 when the Grand Canyon was designated a National Monument. In 2016, that same opposition can be found in Maine and New England, as proposals for a national monument in northern Maine and in the Gulf of Maine are considered by the Obama Administration. As the dysfunction and polarization of Congress reaches new heights, congressional agreement on creating National Parks becomes more and more remote. The Antiquities Act not only provides the best hope for permanently protecting America’s greatest national treasures for generations to come but for creating living laboratories for us to understand the impacts of climate disruption on those resources and how best we can adapt to those changes.