As they always had, and as they always intended to do, a group of Wyoming ranchers led 500 or so cattle through the vast open grasslands that were great for grazing. But this time, they were angry. The space they’d long used for their livestock had become federally protected land, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to create the Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943. The ranchers were so indignant about losing the land and their livelihood to the federal government that they’d armed themselves in protest with a flamboyant arsenal of guns, daring anybody to stop them.
In the western United States, some communities that currently earn their living from the land still harbor hard feelings about national monuments—those cumulative millions of acres, preserved by presidential decree, which often are closed to industries like ranching and mining. The prospect of lost livelihoods can produce conflict over the limits that monuments place on land use, but creating monuments can also create value by growing new industries related to recreation and tourism.