Local Leaders Applaud Senator Feinstein’s Call to Designate California Desert National Monuments

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By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– Local leaders in the California desert are applauding Senator Feinstein’s call to designate three national monuments in the region. Senator Feinstein wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to use the Antiquities Act to designate Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument. National monument designations will mean that these special places will be forever protected and accessible.

“The lands of the proposed Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments are incredibly valuable to the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities and other desert towns through conservation in their current state,” said Bill Vincent, President of the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce. “Permanently protecting these lands will provide support and opportunity for future economic development in the region by sustaining tourism and recreation for visitors and attracting retirees and other new residents who love the unique beauty of the California desert.”

This push for national monument designations comes after nearly a decade of work by local leaders on legislative efforts to protect the California desert. Now, elected officials, business owners, veterans, local faith leaders, anglers, historians, conservationists and others are turning to President Obama and urging him to permanently protect these special places. In doing so, the President would be following in the footsteps of nearly every president since 1906 – 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats – who have used the Antiquities Act over 140 times.

“We have a moral responsibility to protect God’s creation – the California desert,” said Pastor Raul Velasquez from Centro Cristiano Nueva Comienza/New Beginnings Christian Center in Victorville, California. “These proposed national monuments are our legacy to pass onto the next generation. I participated in a hike of the desert earlier this year with a group of young people. This experience highlighted the need for our young people to be the stewards our lands, especially at a time of changing demographics. Nearly 50 percent of those living in the Inland Empire are Latinos – and we have a critical voice in the protection of our public lands. That’s why I’m adding my support to this effort.”

About the Proposed National Monuments

The proposed Mojave Trails National Monument would preserve striking desert lands linking Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. It features the most intact stretch of historic Route 66, a significant landmark in the geography of California and the American West. The lands in the proposed National Monument are habitat for desert tortoises and bighorn sheep and hold archeological and scientific wonders, including 550 million-year-old fossils in the Marble Mountains Fossil Beds.  National monument status would protect existing uses of these lands for outdoor recreation, visiting Route 66, exploring geology, and preserving wildlife corridors between national parks and wilderness areas.

“I strongly support the designation of the Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments,” said Carlos Simental, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. “Our California desert lands are a tribute to our past and a promise to future generations. As a veteran, I’ve found solace in visiting these places and many of my fellow veterans have done the same. After returning home from a tour of duty, spending time outdoors hiking, fishing and camping is a way that many veterans decompress, reconnect with family, and return to civilian life. These national monuments would offer a place to do just that.”

The proposed Sand to Snow National Monument rises from the Sonoran Desert floor to the top of southern California’s tallest mountain, Mount San Gorgonio. It contains a rich tapestry of landscapes and habitats including alpine peaks, Joshua tree woodlands, mountain vistas, rivers and wetlands, and desert. These lands also hold 25 miles of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail and the headwaters of southern California’s longest river, the Santa Ana, as well as the headwaters of the Whitewater River. Recreational opportunities in the proposed Sand to Snow National Monument include hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, fishing and bird watching. At higher elevations, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail. National monument status would protect these existing uses.

“The open vistas, desert oases, historic treasures and many hiking trails in the proposed national monuments offer adventure, solitude, and fresh air to the many visitors who love these landscapes,” said ‘Death Valley Jim’ Mattern, a desert explorer, author, hiking guide and resident of Joshua Tree. “It is important that these lands will be available for campers, hikers, anglers, rock hounders, and other recreationalists for generations into the future. National monument designations will put these lands on the map for future visitors and highlight their unique geology, animals, and plant life.”

The proposed Castle Mountains National Monument includes rocky peaks, native desert grasslands, Joshua trees, and piñon pine and juniper forests. It offers stunning vistas of the California and Nevada desert mountain ranges, including a view of Nevada’s Spirit Mountain, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a location revered by numerous southwestern Native American tribes.  The proposed Castle Mountains National Monument includes rich cultural and historical resources, such as Native American archaeological sites and the historic gold mining ghost town of Hart. The area is also rich with wildlife, such as Golden Eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and bobcats.

Economic Benefits to the California Desert Region

Protecting public lands in the California Desert has already brought noteworthy economic benefits to the region. Visitors to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve contributed $165 million to the region’s economy in 2013, supporting nearly 2,000 jobs. In San Bernardino County, visitors overall generated $52.5 million in local tax receipts in 2010, providing much needed revenue to the county and cities.

“Local residents and visitors from all over have long been drawn to the beauty of the California desert,” said Jan Harnik, City of Palm Desert Council Member and Immediate Past Chair of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments. “The desert includes some of the most spectacular scenery in the nation and that has made tourism and recreation an important part of our local economy. The proposed Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments offer great benefits to our region. We must protect these places for future generations to enjoy.”

The Antiquities Act – Over 100 Years of Bipartisan Use by American Presidents

Since 1906, American presidents have been able to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act so that future generations can experience our nation’s wildlife, rivers, historic sites and open spaces. In using the Antiquities Act to permanently protect unique American places, President Obama would be following in the footsteps of nearly every president since Teddy Roosevelt designated Devils Tower, the Grand Canyon, and other American icons as national monuments in the early 1900s. Important American symbols such as the Statue of Liberty are special places in our nation’s history that were also protected by national monument designations.

“The proposed Mojave Trails National Monument holds an important piece of American history – the most intact stretch of historic Route 66,” said Jim Conkle, Former Chair of the Route 66 Alliance. “Dubbed ‘The Mother Road’ by John Steinbeck, Route 66 transformed the West as the shortest route across the country. The lands in the proposed Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments also hold ancient fossil beds, Native American sites, and other wonders. National monument designations would protect these important pieces of our collective heritage.”

Continued Support for the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015

Local leaders also reaffirmed their support for the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015, legislation championed by Senator Feinstein and introduced earlier this year. This bill offers a balanced approach to protecting wilderness and ensuring the public’s access for recreation and tourism activities.

“We remain committed to protecting all of the lands outlined in the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015,” said Eva Soltes, Director of Harrison House Music, Arts and Ecology. “This legislation represents a balanced approach that was built from the ground-up by diverse stakeholders. The call for national monument designations is in line with this effort. We want to see every tool available used to protect these special lands for future generations – from national monument designation by President Obama to passing the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act by Congress.”

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