U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, with support from fellow Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, last February introduced the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015, a bill that amends and updates the historic California Desert Protection Act of 1994. The bill would expand protection for more of the California desert.
Besides additional wilderness acreage, wild and scenic river designations, expansion of Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, the proposal would establish two new national monuments. The Mojave Trails National Monument would encompass 965,000 acres of land, including former Catellus-owned lands donated to the U.S. government with the intention of preservation.
The other proposed monument is the Sand to Snow National Monument, which would encompass 135,000 acres of land from the desert floor in Coachella Valley to the peak of Mount San Gorgonio.
After little substantive progress on the legislation, in an August letter to President Barack Obama, Feinstein asked him to use his “authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate three national monuments in the California desert: the
Mojave Trails National Monument, the Sand to Snow National Monument and Castle Mountains National Monument.”
She wrote, “As an addition to the Mojave National Preserve in the legislation, [the Castle Mountains] area northeast of the current preserve boundary was left out of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act due to an active gold mine, which ceased operations in 2001.”
In October, Feinstein hosted a public meeting on the proposed designations. Hundreds attended, including many administration officials and local elected representatives, including Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz.
After the session, in a press release, Ruiz said, “It was an honor to join Sen. Feinstein and the other elected officials to hear the public’s points of view on the proposed Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails and Castle Mountain national monument designations. The Desert Conservation and Recreation Act gives our communities an opportunity to enjoy for generations to come what could be our nation’s most environmentally diverse national monument, and marry conservation, recreation, tourism and job creation. I support the bill and its passage through Congress.”
In November, the Vet Voice Foundation released a poll commissioned to understand Californians’ perspectives on proposed desert national monuments. The survey reveals overwhelming support among California voters statewide and in the desert region for President Obama to designate the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments.
“Voters want the president to protect these lands as important habitat for wildlife, and so that families and children have places to get outdoors and explore nature,” said Lori Weigel, partner in Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the survey. “This support is broad-based and cuts across many demographics.”
According to the poll’s findings, 75 percent of California voters support the president designating three national monuments in the California desert, with 70 percent support among residents in the desert region itself.