President Obama has designated three desert areas in California as national monuments.
The move permanently protects "nearly 1.8 million acres of America's public lands," the White House says in a news release.
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.
The Los Angeles Times explains how this designation was reached:
"The designation was requested by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who for a decade has sought to protect land that wasn't included in the 1994 California Desert Protection Act. That measure covered nearly 7.6 million acres, elevated Death Valley and Joshua Tree to national park status and created the Mojave National Preserve.
"Unable to gain momentum on her California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act last year, Feinstein and conservation groups asked Obama to act unilaterally to create the three monuments overlapping biological zones between roughly Palm Springs and the Nevada border."
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The White House says Obama has now protected more than 265 million acres of land and water. That's more than any other U.S. administration.
And now, meet the three newest national monuments:
At 1.6 million acres, Mojave Trails is by far the largest of the three new monuments and includes "a stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes," the White House says.
The White House proclamation describes it as a "landscape defined by scarcity and shaped by travel." Here's more:
"With historic American trading routes, trails followed by Spanish explorers, a transcontinental rail line, and the Nation's most famous highway [Route 66], the Mojave Trails area tells the American story of exploration, migration and commerce."
The rugged area features a striking series of sand dunes, rare plant species and endangered birds.
Sand to Snow National Monument boasts the tallest mountain in Southern California, according to the White House proclamation. The 11,500-foot San Gorgonio Mountain rises from the Sonoran Desert floor.
The new national monument, which spans 154,000 acres, is diverse terrain: It includes a range from "lowland deserts, fresh water marshes, and Mojave riparian forests, to creosote bush scrub ecosystems, and alpine peaks," the White House says.
An estimated 1,700 Native American petroglyphs (carved art on rock faces) will be protected as a result of the new designation.
Sand to Snow National Monument is also home to more than 240 species of bird.
Castle Mountains National Monument is the smallest of the three, at 20,920 acres. Its wildlife inhabitants include golden eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and bobcats.
And the newly designated area "provides a critical linkage for plants, animals, and water between two mountain ranges within the Preserve, the New York Mountains to the northwest and the Piute Mountains to the southeast," the White House says.
This linkage will contribute to the survival of a herd of desert bighorn sheep, according to the White House.
Also in the protected area is the ghost town of Hart, which has been abandoned since 1920.
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