President Barack Obama and Marine National Monuments Superintendent Matt Brown toured Midway Atoll in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean on September 1, 2016.
What’s the difference between a national park and a national monument? Both kinds of sites protect areas with historic, natural, or cultural importance, but each one is created in a different way. A national park is created by an act of Congress, while a national monument is established by a presidential proclamation.
At the end of August 2016, President Barack Obama created a new national monument in Maine and expanded an existing one in Hawaii. They both protect unique ecosystems that are located more than 5,000 miles away from each other.
In 2006, President George W. Bush created the Papahānaumokuākea (pah•pah•hah•noh•moh•koo•ah•keh•ah) Marine National Monument in Hawaii. President Obama expanded the protected area to 582,578 square miles. This is now the largest protected area in the world and is over twice the size of Texas.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument includes sites that are of cultural and religious importance to Native Hawaiians. It also has significant natural environments and historical sites. Most of the monument is ocean, not land. The coral reefs there are home to more than 7,000 species, including many that are only found in Hawaii. Native Hawaiians and environmentalists, or people who are concerned with preserving the environment, are pleased that this area is protected. However, commercial fishers are concerned that this could have a negative effect on their industry.
On the other side of the country, more than 87,500 acres recently became Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Like the monument in Hawaii, this monument also protects an area with a lot of biodiversity, or different kinds of plants and animals. Katahdin Woods and Waters includes forests, streams, and rivers. The national monument is next to Baxter State Park where Mount Katahdin marks the end of the Appalachian Trail. The new national monument takes its name from this mountain.
The land and money for maintaining the monument was donated to the U.S. government by Roxanne Quimby. Quimby is a businesswoman and philanthropist, or someone who wants to help others, often by donating money. Environmentalists are pleased that this area is protected. Some people who liked to use the land for hunting and recreation are concerned that they won’t be able to anymore. People in the paper and timber industries are concerned that this change could impact their business.
So far, President Obama has created 24 national monuments, more than any other President in U.S. history. In all, President Obama has protected more than 545 million acres. To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary this year, President Obama and other government officials have been encouraging people to visit America’s protected wild places more than ever. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a national park or national monument, be sure to enjoy all that the site has to offer.