President Obama designated three new national monuments in the California desert, encompassing nearly 1.8 million acres of America’s public lands. With the new designations, President Obama has now protected 3.5 million acres of public lands. solidifying his presidency as the most prolific conservationist in U.S. history.
“The California desert is a cherished and irreplaceable resource for the people of southern California,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a statement. “It is an oasis of nature’s quiet beauty just outside two of our nation’s largest metropolitan areas.”
The new monuments: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains will link Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve, which protects key wildlife corridors providing plants and animals with the space and elevation range that they will need in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
This year the National Park System will celebrate 100 years of “America’s Greatest Idea,” while the Wilderness Act, which designated lands for “preservation and protection in their natural condition,” celebrated 50 years in 2014.
"Our country is home to some of the most beautiful God-given landscapes in the world," President Obama said in a statement. "We’re blessed with natural treasures – from the Grand Tetons to the Grand Canyon; from lush forests and vast deserts to lakes and rivers teeming with wildlife. And it’s our responsibility to protect these treasures for future generations, just as previous generations protected them for us."
Nearly two decades of work by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein contributed to legislation to protect the special places of the California desert. In October, senior Administration officials visited Palm Springs, California, at the Senator’s invitation to hear from the community about its vision for conservation in the California desert. Supporters of these areas include local counties and cities, area business groups, tribes, hunters, anglers, faith-based organizations, recreationists, local land trusts and conservation groups, and students from local schools.
“(The) designation by the President furthers the longstanding work of public land managers and local communities to ensure these areas will remain preserved and accessible to the public for future generations,” Secretary Jewell said.
Meet California’s New National Monuments
Mojave Trails National Monument
Spanning 1.6 million acres, more than 350,000 acres of previously congressionally-designated Wilderness, the Mojave Trails National Monument is comprised of a stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes. The monument will protect irreplaceable historic resources including ancient Native American trading routes, World War II-era training camps, and the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66. Additionally, the area has been a focus of study and research for decades, including geological research and ecological studies on the effects of climate change and land management practices on ecological communities and wildlife.
Encompassing 154,000 acres, including just over 100,000 acres of already congressionally-designated Wilderness, Sand to Snow National Monument is an ecological and cultural treasure and one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California, supporting more than 240 species of birds and twelve threatened and endangered wildlife species. Home to the region’s tallest alpine mountain that rises from the floor of the Sonoran desert, the monument also will protect sacred, archaeological and cultural sites, including an estimated 1,700 Native American petroglyphs. Featuring thirty miles of the world famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the area is a favorite for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and even skiing.
The Castle Mountains National Monument is an integral piece of the Mojave Desert with important natural resources and historic sites, including Native American archeological sites. The 20,920-acre monument will serve as a critical connection between two mountain ranges, protecting water resources, plants, and wildlife such as golden eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and bobcats.