By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is due to announce on Monday that he will designate five locations around the country as national monuments to protect large tracts of land and historical sites, a White House official said.
The locations range from a 240,000-acre (97,125-hectare) expanse in New Mexico's high desert to the town green in Dover, Delaware, part of a nod to that state's role in the founding of the republic. A national monument is similar to a national park but can be designated directly by the president without congressional approval, speeding the process.
Conservationists and lawmakers said the designations would protect pristine land and tokens of the past and would also generate economic activity through tourism.
"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, a Democrat, said.
The First State National Monument in Delaware spans three sites including a 1,100-acre (445-ha) property in the Brandywine Valley on the Delaware-Pennsylvania border and will be the first designation in that state. Delaware is the only one of the 50 U.S. states so far to lack a property in the U.S. national park system and is also the home state of Vice President Joe Biden.
The president will also designate the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, a spectacular high desert gorge, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument on Maryland's Eastern Shore that honors an escaped slave who helped steer others like her to freedom.
Rounding out the new monuments are the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, which acknowledges a pioneering African American soldier and black soldiers who served in the Civil War and other conflicts, and the San Juan Islands National Monument in the state of Washington, protecting dozens of islands in the northeastern most corner of the country, the official said.
Obama has previously designated four places as national monuments. In addition to naming sites for their natural features, he has also picked locations that have social or historic significance, such as the home and headquarters of farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)