The White House set aside 1.47 million acres of land to create the controversial Bears Ears monument, which has been opposed by local Navajo tribal members despite being supported by tribal officials.
"Today's actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes," Obama said in a statementWednesday.
"These lands are sacred to many Native American tribes today who use them for ceremonies, collecting medicinal and edible plants, and gathering materials for crafting baskets and footwear," reads an Interior Department statement.
Though in total, Obama's designation is 80,000 acres larger than what House lawmakers proposed in the so-called "Public Lands Initiative" -- that law was actually meant to block Obama from ever creating a Bears Ears monument.
Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have used the Antiquities Act to create national monuments for more than a century, but Obama has used the law to put more lands under stricter control than any other president.
Republicans say President-Elect Trump can undo these designations, which make it harder for people living in or around them to live their daily lives. National monuments don't explicitly ban activities, but they can make it harder to farm, drill, mine or hunt and fish on federal lands.
Despite White House assurances traditional activities wouldn't be limited, locals are still worried their way of life will be forever changed.
The Interior Department said such activities would be protected, but locals look at the nearby Arches National Monument where collecting wood isn't allowed.
The Interior Department also notes future drilling and mining activities will be banned in the region, which puts into jeopardy the fate of Energy Fuels Resources, the largest private employer in the area. The company has uranium mining claims in the region.
Obama created a Bears Ears Commission that's composed of tribal members to advise the government on managing the monument. But as locals point out, the Interior Department has the ultimate say on what happens.
Navajo Nation leadership supports the monument, but two subgroups who live closest to the monument, the Aneth Chapter and the Blue Mountain Dine, oppose it.
"As both Navajo and American, I am proud our President listened to a sovereign appeal and acted to preserve our sacred land for future generations," Russell Begaye, Navajo Nation president, wrote in an oped on the Bears Ears designation.