President Obama has designated three new national monuments in the California desert, encompassing nearly 1.8 million acres of America’s public lands. Building on the Administration’s commitment to protect our land and water for future generations, today’s designations will nearly double the number of acres of public lands previously protected as national monuments by President Obama–– demonstrating the Administration’s strong commitment to aggressive action to protect the environment for future generations.
In addition to permanently protecting incredible natural resources, wildlife habitat and unique historic and cultural sites, and providing recreational opportunities for a burgeoning region, the monuments will support climate resiliency in the region and further advance the President’s unprecedented work to address climate change. The new monuments link already protected lands, including Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and 15 congressionally-designated Wilderness areas, permanently protecting key wildlife corridors and providing plants and animals with the space and elevation range that they will need in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined members of Congress, state and local officials, and local business and community leaders in applauding the President’s designation of the Sand to Snow National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument in southern California.
The new monuments, located in San Bernardino and Riverside counties about one hour from the Los Angeles metropolitan area and one hour from the Las Vegas metropolitan area, protect approximately 1.8 million acres of spectacular landscapes, fragile wildlife habitat, unique historic resources, and important cultural sites. The three designations connect Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest, and fifteen wilderness areas previously designated by Congress, creating a series of protected lands stretching hundreds of miles. The monuments protect current uses of the land, including military training operations, off-highway vehicle recreation, transportation, utility corridors, and existing mining operations.
The monuments announced today are the result of nearly two decades of leadership by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein to craft 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 protecting 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 California desert is a cherished and irreplaceable resource for the people of southern California,” said Secretary Jewell. “It is an oasis of nature’s quiet beauty just outside two of our nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Its historic and cultural resources tell the stories of armies, travelers, ranchers, and miners, and of the original caretakers of this land. Today’s 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.”
“Sand to Snow’s peaks and valleys have long provided physical and spiritual sustenance to native people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today, they are also an inspiration and recreational beacon to millions. We are honored to ensure the permanent protection of these cherished places.”
The national monuments, comprised exclusively of existing federal lands, will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service and by the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The proclamations direct the agencies to engage the public in comprehensive planning for the management of these areas, building upon the provisions outlined in the proclamations. The three designations all honor valid existing rights, and provide for continued use for training activities of the U.S. military.
The Sand to Snow National Monument encompasses approximately 154,000 acres of federal lands, including just over 100,000 acres of already Congressionally-designated wilderness, east of Los Angeles, California, and will be managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Rising from the floor of the Sonoran Desert to San Gorgonio Peak, the tallest in southern California, the monument includes lush desert oases, significant archeological sites, and thirty miles of the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail. The area is a favorite for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and even skiing. The area is renowned for its rich diversity of rare and fragile wildlife and is one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California.
The Mojave Trails National Monument spans 1.6 million acres of federal lands, including more than 350,000 acres of already Congressionally-designated wilderness, managed by the Bureau of Land Management between Barstow and Needles, California. It is a stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes. The monument contains the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66 and some of the best preserved sites from the World War II-era Desert Training Center. Connecting the Mojave National Preserve with Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Trails National Monument ensures the biological connectivity of this landscape while preserving traditional uses such hunting and off-highway vehicle recreation.
The Castle Mountains National Monument consists of approximately 21,000 acres of federal land surrounded by the existing Mojave National Preserve and will be managed by the National Park Service. An integral piece of the Mojave Desert, the area has important flora, fauna, water, and historic resources, and its designation as a national monument helps to preserve related resources set aside for protection in the Preserve. The monument has some of the finest Joshua tree forest and native desert grassland in the Mojave Desert and contains important cultural resources including Native American archeological sites and vestiges of mining, ranching, and the railroad from the period of western expansion.
Today’s announcement brings to twenty-two the number of national monuments established by President Obama under the Antiquities Act, an authority exercised by sixteen presidents starting with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and used to protect treasures such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients. Altogether, President Obama has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – and has preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history.
Following decades of local input and leadership from Senator Dianne Feinstein, today’s designation’s will enhance the region’s economic activity by attracting visitors, increasing tourism, and ensuring public access for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and other outdoor recreation activities for generations to come. Permanent protection for the three new national monuments is strongly supported by local governments, tribes, business groups, elected officials, community leaders, and a variety of stakeholders including faith leaders, sportsmen, historians, conservationists and others. Additionally, the designations complement an ongoing planning process for renewable energy development on public lands in the California desert and furthers the longstanding work with public land managers and local communities to protect these lands for future generations.
Every Kid in a Park
In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history – more than 265 million acres – the President has sought to ensure that all Americans and future generations have the opportunity to experience the natural and cultural richness of our national parks, monuments, forests and other public lands. Nearly a year ago, the President announced the launch of the Every Kid in a Park program to give every 4th grader in America free access to visit the country’s unparalleled public lands, and over the course of the next year, the Administration will continue to encourage all Americans to “find your park” and experience firsthand the wonder of America’s great outdoors. Moreover, the Administration is working to galvanize public and private support to achieve the goals of Every Kid in a Park and boost additional efforts to connect more underserved youth with nature.
Inspired by the Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors and by the President’s trip to Alaska last summer, IslandWood, the Sierra Club, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, and action sports retailer Zumiez are today announcing a new project called “Fresh Tracks.” Their independent project will provide two dozen youth from underserved Los Angeles and Alaska Native communities with opportunities to travel together to both areas and explore diverse cultures and outdoors over a three-week period in August. Their project is particularly focused on working with communities responding to the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, a call to action by President Obama for cities, Tribal Nations, towns, and counties to build and execute robust cradle-to-college-and-career plans to ensure that all young people—no matter who they are or where they come from—can achieve their full potential. The President’s actions today are protecting important public lands, and efforts like Fresh Tracks and Every Kid in a Park will work to ensure that our country’s youth are able to visit and enjoy these types of cultural and natural areas.