Friday, February 12, 2016

Saving the desert

Here's some wonderful news to pick me up after what was, for totally unrelated reasons, an extremely rough week.

  • Volcanic spires and Joshua trees: Obama protects 1.8 million acres in California's desert
    President Obama designated three new national monuments in the California desert Thursday, expanding federal protection to 1.8 million acres of landscapes that have retained their natural beauty despite decades of heavy mining, cattle ranching and off-roading.
  • Photos: Obama Declares 3 New National Monuments In California Desert
    All three areas lie east of Los Angeles. Two of the new monuments — Castle Mountains and Mojave Trails — are near California's border with Nevada.

    And crucially, "the new monuments will link already protected lands, including Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and fifteen 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," the release says.

  • With 3 new monuments, Obama creates world’s second-largest desert preserve
    The designations under the 1906 Antiquities Act connect an array of existing protected areas, including Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve and 15 wilderness areas, creating a nearly 10 million-acre arid land reserve that is surpassed only by Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park.
  • Obama Just Added Three More National Monuments
    Mojave Trails National Monument

    This is the largest of the newly protected areas and spans 1.6 million acres, over 350,000 of which were already protected. The area includes ancient Native American trading routes, a long stretch of Route 66, and World War II training camps. Natural highlights include the Pisgah Crater lava flows, Marble Mountains Fossil Beds, and the Amboy Crater.

  • Mojave Trails National Monument
    Mojave Trails boasts stunning springs of underground water, like diamonds in the rough, teaming with desert life, and shifting sand dunes that hum in the wind - havens for kit foxes.

    Other national treasures in the proposed monument include:

    • The scenic lava flows of Amboy Crater—North America’s youngest volcano and a National Natural Landmark;
    • The 550 million-year-old trilobite fossil beds of the Marble Mountains;
    • Sleeping Beauty Valley—the last intact valley representing the West Mojave plant ecosystem; and
    • The Cady Mountains—one of the best areas in the Mojave to see bighorn sheep.
  • Land Status
  • Press Release: Historic Designation of New California Desert National Monuments Celebrated by Local Communities
    The Mojave Trails National Monument links the Mojave National Preserve to Joshua Tree National Park and existing Wilderness Areas, and includes vital wildlife habitat, desert vistas and important Native American cultural sites. Sand to Snow offers some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country, linking the San Gorgonio Wilderness to Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest. Some of the finest Joshua tree, piƱon pine, and juniper forests in the desert grow in the Castle Mountains National Monument. Given the exceptional historical, ecological, and geological features found in each area – from Route 66 to the Marble Mountains Fossil Beds to desert tortoise and bighorn sheep habitat – these lands are well-deserving of their new national monument status.

    “Along with over 100 historians, archaeologists, and other experts, I enthusiastically welcome the designation of the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains National Monuments,” said Dr. Clifford E. Trafzer, Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, University of California, Riverside. “President Obama has taken a step forward to preserve not only the beauty of these lands, but also our shared history. Now these places will be better protected against theft and damage of Native American objects and artifacts. With respect and good stewardship, these public lands are repositories of knowledge, just waiting to be understood.”

This is the land of my childhood (well, my middle-school childhood, anyway). It is as harsh and unforgiving a place as exists on the planet, but my oh my is it a treasure for those who take the time to get to know and appreciate it.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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