President Obama has used a 100-year-old law call the Antiquities Act 13 times to limit public use of government-owned land, a move some Republicans say is evidence of an overpowered executive branch. Obama's actions have affected more than one million acres of land and more than 500,000 square miles of ocean, which are subject to use restrictions for the purpose of conservation.
"[T]he Antiquities Act is abused by presidents of both parties to enact large-scale designations that ultimately are intended to limit specific uses and activities on vast tracts of public lands," said a spokesperson for Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who has sponsored legislation to limit the use of the Antiquities Act.
The act was originally passed in 1906 to allow the president to "declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments." It was used 144 times by the 15 presidents preceding Obama, which works out to 9.6 times per president — putting Obama's use rate a little above average, but still well below President Bill Clinton's 22 designations.