Blog Post Seth Shteir Sep 17, 2015

Three New National Monuments in the California Desert?

Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed three new national monuments in the California desert that would preserve this spectacular region’s natural and cultural legacy for future generations. Urge President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to give these storied landscapes the protection they deserve!

California’s deserts are vibrant ecosystems with diverse life and landscapes: cactus gardens and Joshua tree forests, hidden springs and palm oases, towering rock formations, “singing” sand dunes, multi-hued canyons, and thousands of years of human history. Yet these landscapes also face a range of threats, from encroaching development to pollution to underfunding.

Over the last several years, Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced legislation to preserve critical parts of the California desert, but these bills have stalled in Congress despite overwhelming support from local businesses, chambers of commerce, veterans, faith-based groups, community leaders, and elected officials. Senator Feinstein is now calling on President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to create three new desert national monuments: Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and Castle Mountains. All of these monuments were included in the senator’s original legislation and all enjoy widespread support. The president’s timely use of the Antiquities Act would ensure that these spectacular landscapes are protected in perpetuity for the American people.

Here are snapshots of the three places that more than 11,500 NPCA supporters have already urged the president to preserve.

1. Castle Mountains National Monument

The Castle Mountain National Monument would protect some of the finest Joshua tree, pinon pine, and juniper forests in the California desert. This spectacular area also encompasses a native desert grassland with a distinctive variety of plants, including many rare species. The stunning vistas of California and Nevada desert mountain ranges include Nevada’s Spirit Mountain, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and revered by numerous southwestern Native American tribes.

The Castle Mountains also offer unparalleled opportunities to study wildlife movements between varied ecological habitats. Golden eagle, Swainson’s hawks, and prairie falcons soar above the area’s rocky peaks. Desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, jack rabbits, desert woodrats, and a variety of mice make their homes in remote canyons and on steep slopes. The Castle Mountains are habitat for numerous bat species, including species of concern, and are targeted by federal and state agencies as a location to reintroduce pronghorn, the second-fastest land mammal in the world. Beneath the shadow of Hart Peak lie rich cultural and historical resources, such as Native American archaeological sites and the historic gold mining ghost town of Hart.

2. Mojave Trails National Monument

For those who get their kicks on Route 66, this 950,000-acre monument would protect the “Mother Road’s” important historic resources and scenic views. The new monument would boast incredible ecological diversity and protect special places like the Bigelow Cholla Garden Wilderness Area, Pisgah Lava Flow, Marble Mountain Fossil Bed, and Sleeping Beauty Valley, one of the most pristine areas of the Mojave Desert. The monument would connect wildlife traveling between Joshua Tree National Park, the Twentynine Palms Air Ground Combat Center, and Mojave National Preserve. Mojave Trails contains irreplaceable archaeological and cultural sites, including sacred Native American trails and trade routes. It would also protect Afton Canyon (shown above), a rainbow-hued, steep-walled canyon created by a massive flood in the Pleistocene Epoch.

3. Sand to Snow National Monument

With dramatic mountain ranges rising from the low desert to over 10,000 feet in elevation, the Sand to Snow National Monument would connect Big Morongo Canyon Preserve’s oases with the Whitewater River and the high, snow-capped peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is a National Watchable Wildlife Site with almost 250 bird species. It also provides a critical water source for many of Joshua Tree National Park’s desert bighorn sheep. The new monument would protect a wildlife corridor for animals that move across the landscape to find food, water, mates, and habitat. It would also protect stunning archaeological sites and rare species at Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa. Sand to Snow is home to the most botanically diverse mountains in the contiguous United States, as well as a 23-mile stretch of the famed Pacific Crest Trail that stretches all the way from Mexico to the Canadian border.

Benefits

These three monuments would enhance recreation and tourism in the region, bringing economic benefits to surrounding communities and improved opportunities for outdoor access. They would preserve the vibrant but fragile desert ecosystem while protecting our culture and history.

More than 11,500 NPCA advocates have already supported these special places by urging President Obama to create three new national monuments in the California desert.

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