President Barack Obama has designated more than 7,300 square kilometers of southern California desert for three national monuments.
White House officials say the move will maintain in perpetuity the region’s fragile ecosystem and natural resources, as will as provide recreational opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters and others.
What will be named Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains are both in the Mojave Desert, and Sand to Snow is in the Sonoran Desert.
The 6,500 square kilometers of Mojave Trails Nation Monument – by far, the largest of the new monuments – contains ancient lava flows, spectacular sand dunes, ancient Native American trading routes and World War II-era training camps. It is also home to the largest remaining undeveloped stretch of America’s historic Route 66.
Castle Mountain National Monument links two mountain ranges in its nearly 85 square kilometers. The land houses Native American archaeological sites, as well as golden eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and other wildfire.
Sand to Snow National Monument is home to 240 species of birds and 12 endangered or threatened species of wildlife. It also has an estimated 1,700 Native American petroglyphs.
A White House statement said, «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.»
President Obama was able to designate the land as monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to protect landmarks that have cultural, historic or scientific value.