In the United States, we have areas designated as National Parks, and areas designated as National Monuments.

What are the fundamental differences between the two?

  • 2
    I think it has to do with the types of permissible uses. I vaguely remember some controversy over the government wanting to reclassify one site from one type to the other and people were upset about land use changes.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


The difference is mostly one of administrative/bureaucratic elements. Both are protected areas, the difference is in who creates and manages them.

All National Parks are run by the National Park Service (NPS), part of the US Department of the Interior. Creation of new national parks is done through an act of congress. Creation of a new park using land administered by a different dept, such as a National Forest which is managed by the Dept of Agriculture, would also require congressional action to reassign that section of land.

National Monuments on the other hand, can be created on any federally owned land, through presidential authority alone. Congress can create monuments as well, but authority is not exclusive to them as is for NPS. Additionally, management of a National Monument can be done by whatever agency is appropriate. Many National Monuments are run and managed by the NPS, but not all. Some are maintaind by the US Forest Service, some by the BLM, one by the Dept of Energy, one by the Air Force and others. Whereas without exception all National Parks must be managed by the NPS.

Apart from that, there is really no significant necessary difference, as whether a given place feels like a park, museum, or something else will depend more on what the protected area contains rather than who's running it. Being a park does have a somewhat narrower criteria than national monuments, but you'll see more variation within the two groups than between.

  • Do they offer the same level of protection?
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 13:07
  • @gerrit: what do you mean by "same level"? Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 18:09
  • Same IUCN category would be one way of measuring it.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 18:25
  • @gerrit: by that criteria no meaningful comparisons could be made. Different individual parks/sites within one Department would be classed in different IUCN categories. Like everything involving the US federal govt, it's a confusing mess. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 19:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.