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The United States has 60 protected areas known as national parks that are operated by the National Park Service. The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Seven national parks (including six in Alaska) are paired with a national preserve. Twenty-eight states have national parks.
There are 131 protected areas in the United States known as national monuments. The President of the United States can establish a national monument by presidential proclamation, and the United States Congress can do so by legislation. The president's authority arises from the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the president to proclaim "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as national monuments. Concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts—collectively termed antiquities—on western federal lands prompted the legislation. Its purpose was to allow the president to quickly preserve public land without waiting for legislation to pass through an unconcerned Congress. The ultimate goal was to protect all historic and prehistoric sites on U.S. federal lands.
Wandering through the United States National Parks & Monuments