Joshua Tree, CA - Today, Mojave Desert Land Trust and its conservation partners were amongst the hundreds of local desert residents, elected officials, community and faith leaders, business owners, veterans and more who joined with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to celebrate the new California desert national monuments. President Obama designated the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments earlier this year, permanently protecting these special desert lands.
Honored guests alongside Secretary Jewell included California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, Congressman Raul Ruiz (CA-36); Jody Noiron, Forest Supervisor, San Bernardino National Forest, U.S. Forest Service; and San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos.
The celebration event, held at the Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs, drew a crowd eager to mark the historic occasion and thank President Obama, U.S. Interior Secretary Jewell, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Senator Feinstein for protecting California desert public lands. Participants at the event also shared their interest in helping to steward the new national monuments in the months and years to come. Local desert organizations, business and community leaders, and residents plan to help ensure that the national monuments are well-managed and protected for future generations. Interest is already growing in helping with invasive species removal, hiking trail maintenance, and trash clean-up.
"Mojave Desert Land Trust is particularly invested in playing a role in clean-up, restoration and monitoring activities that will help secure this invaluable landscape and directly connect people to these lands in a meaningful way," said Frazier Haney, MDLT Conservation Director. "Our volunteer stewardship and citizen science programs are an essential component of our land management work and, in turn, by engaging children and adults in hands-on interactions with nature MDLT helps instill an important sense of value, appreciation and connection with the natural world," he added.
Today's celebration event included an invitation to locals and visitors to experience and explore the beauty of the California desert in the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments, and other desert public lands. The monuments are accessible to the public for activities like hiking, camping, hunting, rock-hounding, exploring on designated off-highway routes, and more. With 2016 being the Centennial of the National Park Service, it's the perfect time to celebrate our nation's parks, forests, public lands, and visit the California desert's three new national monuments.
The Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments altogether include approximately 1.8 million acres of public lands, including 450,000 acres of wilderness previously designated by Congress. The Mojave Trails National Monument encompasses more than 1.6 million acres, including 350,000 acres of wilderness previously designated by Congress. The Sand to Snow National Monument spans 154,000 acres, including 100,000 acres of wilderness previously designated by Congress. The Castle Mountains National Monument includes 20,920 acres of desert landscape surrounded by Mojave National Preserve.
Each monument contains exceptional historical, ecological, and geological features. Mojave Trails links the Mojave National Preserve to Joshua Tree National Park and existing Wilderness Areas, and includes wildlife habitat, vistas and Native American cultural sites. Sand to Snow links the San Gorgonio Wilderness to Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest. It is the most biologocally diverse of our nation's monuments, hosting plants and animals not found anywhere else on Earth. Castle Mountains National Monument includes some of the desert's finest Joshua tree, piñon pine, and juniper forests. The connection and preservation of this habitat is more important than ever given our changing climate.
"We at Mojave Desert Land Trust are thrilled that President Obama protected these lands and thankful to secretary Jewell, Secretary Vilsack and Senator Feinstein for their leadership," said Danielle Segura, MDLT Executive Director. "These special places offer opportunities for experiencing landscapes, dark skies, plants and animals not found anywhere else in the world. MDLT is honored to partner in stewarding these new national monuments and to engage others in doing so. These lands are a source of inspiration, knowledge and discovery - not only to outdoor enthusiasts, artists, historians and scientific explorers - but to anyone wo might take their connection to nature back home with them," she said.