Obama names five new national monuments

Rachel Rose Hartman

Updated 2:18 p.m. ET

The White House defended President Barack Obama's decision on Monday to designate five new national monuments—one each in Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington state—while the country braces for sequester impacts.

"These kinds of designations are important … for the local economy [and] oftentimes they will designate and commemorate important parts of our nation's history," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at Monday's White House briefing.

Additionally, Earnest said, the land was already owned by the federal government or was donated, and the "immediate costs" are "pretty minimal."

The monuments designated Monday were: the Rio Grande del Norte, natural lands marked for protection in New Mexico; Delaware lands that will be deemed the First State national monument in that state; the Harriet Tubman underground railroad in Maryland on its Eastern Shore; the Wilberforce, Ohio, home of Charles Young, a West Point graduate who was the first black national park superintendent; and the San Juan Islands in Washington.

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

The president holds the authority to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act.

Monday's closed press event was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, who hails from Delaware, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.