President Barack Obama on Friday created three new US national monuments in Texas, Nevada and California spanning more than a million acres (400,000 hectares) in a move he said helps preserve America’s beauty but that Republicans condemned as a “surreptitious land grab.”

Acting under a 1906 federal law called the Antiquities Act, Obama established Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California, the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas and the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada.

The White House said Obama has used that law, which allows a president to create national monuments at his “discretion,” to establish or expand 19 national monuments and has protected more than 260 million acres (105 million hectares) of public lands and waters, more than any other president. During a White House Oval Office ceremony, Obama said America’s national parks and national monuments are “something that we pass on from generation to generation, preserving the incredible beauty of this nation, but also reminding us of the richness of its history.”

Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee chairman, said Obama showed “complete disdain for Congress and the people of Nevada, California and Texas” by acting unilaterally.

“This surreptitious land grab reveals that the Obama administration will stop at nothing to lock up more and more land, with the stroke of a pen. I condemn this shameful power move which makes states and citizens fearful that the federal government can invade at any time to seize more lands like bandits in the night,” Bishop said.

Fellow Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz said presidents should be barred from using the Antiquities Act within any county that has enacted a land management plan. The Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada covers 704,000 acres (285,000 hectares) of public land and includes Native American rock art dating back 4,000 years.

The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument spans 331,000 acres (134,000 hectares) of public land in northern California, stretching across nearly 100 miles (160 km) and dozens of ecosystems. Waco Mammoth National Monument features well-preserved 65,000-year-old remains of 24 Columbian mammoths, an extinct elephant relative that roamed North America during the Ice Age. The 100-acre (40-hectare) paleontological site will be managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the city of Waco and Baylor University. Former first lady Laura Bush said the creation of the Waco Mammoth monument was “a special day for Texas.”