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To protect lands, Obama designates five new national monuments

President Barack Obama signed proclamations Monday designating five locations around the country as new national monuments to protect large tracts of land and historical sites, a White House official said. 

The locations range from a 240,000-acre expanse in New Mexico's high desert and the town green in Dover, Del., to an archipelago in Washington, a historical home in Ohio and a park in Maryland. 

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

Similar to a national park, the sites, located in Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington, can be designated as national monuments directly by the president without congressional approval, under the Antiquities Act.

Conservationists and lawmakers said the new monuments are expected to promote economic growth in the local communities through tourism and outdoor recreation.

"Our state will now welcome the many economic opportunities that surround a new national monument and can help boost local businesses and create jobs," Delaware Senator Tom Carper told Reuters.

“There’s no doubt that these monuments will serve as economic engines for the local communities through tourism and outdoor recreation – supporting economic growth and creating jobs," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

The president designated the First State National Monument in Delaware, which spans three historical areas: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex and the Woodlawn property in Brandywine Valley. The site tells the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, and it will be the state's first designation. 

The president also designated Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, which contains stretches of the Rio Grande Gorge and extinct volcanoes that rise fro the Taos Plateau. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities like rafting, fishing and hiking and serves as an important habitat for many birds and wildlife. 

Obama also designated the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument on Maryland's Eastern Shore that honors the escaped slave who helped lead others to freedom.

The site includes Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand by free and enslaved people between 1810 and the 1830s, and where Tubman learned important outdoor skills when she worked in the nearby timber operations with her father, the White House said. 

Rounding out the new monuments are: the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, which honors the distinguished officer in the United States Army who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of Colonel; and the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington state, home to a number of historic lighthouses and cultural resources and fossils dating back 12,000 years.

Obama has previously designated four places as national monuments, including the home and headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America leader César Chávez and Colorado's Chimney Rock, known for its rich history of Native American culture.