Friday, February 12, 2016

Obama proclamation creates three national monuments on 1.8 million acres in Sonoran Desert

Times map: boundaries proposed by Sen. Feinstein
"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," Louis Sahagun reports for the Los Angeles Times.

Obama acted after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was unable to get the designations made by legislation. "Much of the land was purchased more than a decade ago by private citizens and the Wildlands Conservancy, then donated to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in anticipation of its eventually receiving the protection of national monument status," Sahagun notes.

The Mojave Trails National Monument "protects wildlife corridors linking Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve," Sahagun writes. "Sand to Snow National Monument, about 45 miles east of Riverside, includes about 154,000 acres of federal land between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The area includes 24 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, an estimated 1,700 petroglyphs and Big Morongo Canyon, a bird-watching destination along a perennial stream designated a federal Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1982."

The Castle Mountains National Monument "surrounds, but does not include, an open-pit mine at the southern end of the Castle Mountains owned by NewCastle Gold Ltd., of Canada, which has a permit allowing it to excavate nearly 10 million tons of ore through 2025. Mining at the site was suspended in 2001 because of low gold prices," Sahagun reports.

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