Federal law gives the President discretion and authority to establish national monuments, or to "declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments." The Antiquities Act of 1906 also allows the President to reserve parcels of land as a part of the national monuments. While the use of this power can be controversial -- either generally or as applied to specific lands -- well over 100 sites have been designated since President Teddy Roosevelt established Devils Tower as the first national monument in 1906.
Over a century later, on August 24, 2016, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The new national monument, managed by the National Park Service, protects approximately 87,500 acres of north-central Maine. It covers land recently donated to the U.S. by philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. That foundation also donated $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial operational needs and infrastructure development at the monument, plus another $20 million in pledged future support.
Climate change and human responses have been a major theme of the Obama administration's policy, and they appear as well in the Maine monument proclamation. In establishing Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, President Obama noted that the monument would enable scientific investigation of the effects of climate change across the boundaries between ecoregions:
Katahdin Woods and Waters possesses significant biodiversity. Spanning three ecoregions, it displays the transition between northern boreal and southern broadleaf deciduous forests, providing a unique and important opportunity for scientific investigation of the effects of climate change across ecotones.The proclamation also notes the monument area's likely resilience to climate change:
Although significant portions of the area have been logged in recent years, the regenerating forests retain connectivity and provide significant biodiversity among plant and animal communities, enhancing their ecological resilience. With the complex matrix of microclimates represented, the area likely contains the attributes needed to sustain natural ecological function in the face of climate change, and provide natural strongholds for species into the future.In a statement released along with the official proclamation, the White House noted, "In addition to protecting spectacular geology, significant biodiversity and recreational opportunities, the new monument will help support climate resiliency in the region. The protected area – together with the neighboring Baxter State Park to the west – will ensure that this large landscape remains intact, bolstering the forest’s resilience against the impacts of climate change."