Celebrating the California Desert National Monument

The year 2015 was full of amazing things (read my summary of that here), and thanks to today's bold action by President Obama, 2016 is shaping up to be another great year for America's public lands. The President, this morning, protected 1.8 million acres of the Southern California desert as the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments. This is a historic action that protects fragile public lands in the desert for future generations, conserving and connecting habitat to help buffer the desert, its wildlife, and communities from a changing climate.

Science tells us that in addition to protecting special places, we need to connect them so that plants and wildlife have room to adapt to climate change. The new national monuments do just that. The new Mojave Trails National Monument links the Mojave National Preserve to Joshua Tree National Park and other existing Wilderness Areas. Joshua Tree also connects to the San Gorgonio Wilderness through the Sand to Snow National Monument, which is adjacent to the San Bernardino National Forest. Rising from the desert floor up to the heights of Mount San Gorgonio, the Sand to Snow National Monument protects one of the most critical wildlife corridors in Southern California. Castle Mountains National Monument too is a vital junction for hundreds of types of wildlife. Golden Eagles and migrating birds, bighorn sheep and black bears, mountain lions and bobcats all call these areas home. The Castle Mountains are even targeted for the reintroduction of pronghorn antelope.

Together these new national monuments offer safe passage for wildlife, opportunities to study their movements and track climate-induced changes.

They also ensure that the public will be able to continue to explore all the desert has to offer while preserving important pieces of America's history. Safeguarded within these monuments are Native American archaeological sites, the historic gold mining town of Hart, historic Route 66, and World War II tank training grounds.

Alpine slopes, low altitude woodlands, desert grasslands and wetlands provide plenty for visitors to explore. Whether along the Pacific Coast Trail ,or elsewhere within the monuments, people can hike, ski, horseback ride or bird watch in a diverse desert landscape unlike any other.

As you may know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We are celebrating world treasures, such as Grand Canyon National Park, and outdoor spaces closer to home. Yet much still needs to be done to protect both nearby nature and iconic lands like those surrounding the Grand Canyon. Today's monumental designations by President Obama continue to build momentum for establishing a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument to safeguard the public lands around the Park.

I hope you'll celebrate by getting outside and enjoying all our nation's public lands have to offer, particularly the newest additions to our national conservation legacy. It's a legacy we hope President Obama will continue to grow as we look toward the next century of conservation.