California Scores National Parks Bonanza
“Our country is home to some of the most beautiful God-given landscapes in the world. 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.” – U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama sent America a love letter of sorts just prior to Valentine’s Day 2016, announcing via an official White House press release that nearly 1.8 million new acres of the nation have been set aside for protection as part of America’s national park system. On Feb. 12, President Obama established three new national monuments – all of which are located in desert areas of California and within an hour’s travel from Los Angeles or Las Vegas: Mojave Trails National Monument, Castle Mountains National Monument, and Sand to Snow National Monument.
Incorporating 400,000 acres which had previously been awarded Wilderness status by the U.S. Congress, the new Mojave Trails National Monument now also protects 550 million-year-old fossil beds, the Pisgah Lava Flow, sand dunes, and awe-inspiring mountain ranges contained within its 1.6 million acres. Also included are Afton Canyon, the Amboy Crater, a segment of California’s largest cactus garden, and Sleeping Beauty Valley.
Bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards, and desert tortoises are expected to benefit from these new national protections. In addition, this designation is also historically significant because the Mojave Trails National Monument is home to the last, longest, undeveloped stretch of Route 66, World War II-era training camps, and historic Native American trading routes.
Castle Mountains National Monument
Additional Native American archaeological sites will also be safer thanks to President Obama’s direction that 20,920 acres in the Mojave Desert be protected as part of the new Castle Mountains National Monument. This particular set aside is also vital because it helps to further strengthen American conservation efforts by creating important linkages between previously designated national and state park lands which make it easier for wildlife to migrate. As a result, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, bobcats, and mountain lions will also now find it safer to just “be.”
Sand to Snow National Monument
Located in one of the most biodiverse areas in south California ecologically with the tallest alpine peak in the Sonoran Desert, and incorporating more than 100,000 acres of land previously designated as Wilderness by the U.S. Congress, America’s new, 154,000-acre Sand to Snow National Monument will protect roughly 1,700 Native American petroglyphs and other fragile archaeological sites, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the Mojave Desert Tortoise, and 11 other threatened and endangered wildlife species.
And, as with Castle Mountains, the new designation establishes links between existing areas of preservation and facilitates wildlife migration.
“Sand to Snow’s peaks and valleys have long provided physical and spiritual sustenance to native people,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Today, they are also an inspiration and recreational beacon to millions. We are honored to ensure the permanent protection of these cherished places.”
An Historic Legacy
With these latest designations, President Obama has now officially protected more water and land across America than any of his predecessors. He has authorized the preservation, to date, of more than 265 acres. In comparison, President Theodore Roosevelt, often described as America’s “conservationist president,” designated 235 million acres as public lands during his administration, according to the U.S. National Park Service’s’ website, and created what is known today as the U.S. Forest Service.