President Obama Criticized for Designating New National Monuments

Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash., speaks at a news conference on the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, June 6, 2012. Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images

President Obama today unilaterally designated five new national monuments, sparking criticism from at least one Republican who is questioning the timing and cost of the decision.

Obama used his executive authority under the Antiquities Act to create Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; First State National Monument in Delaware; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland; Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio; and San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington state.

"These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country," Obama said in a written statement. "By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come."

In a statement released Friday, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., criticized Obama for "unilaterally ordering the National Park Service to spend scarce dollars" while the nation faces harsh budget cuts as a result of the sequester.

"The Obama administration not only sees the sequester as an opportunity to make automatic spending reductions as painful as possible on the American people, it's also a good time for the president to dictate under a century-old law that the government spend money it doesn't have on property it doesn't even own," he said in the statement, which was recirculated today by House Speaker John Boehner's office.

"Over one hundred years ago the Antiquities Act was passed to allow a president to act when there was an emergency need to prevent destruction of a precious place - yet President Obama is acting on simple whim as no imminent threat of destruction or harm is posed at any of these five locations," Hastings added.

In response, the White House said the designations will have a positive, stimulative impact on the local economies and are an important way to commemorate the country's history.

"It's my understanding … that a lot of the land for these new national monuments was either land that was already owned by the federal government or it was donated," Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. "And in terms of the immediate costs, in terms of the management of the land, I think they're pretty minimal in the early stages."

According to a 2006 National Parks and Conservation Association study circulated by the White House, each federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public.