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White House Designates Three New National Monuments

Nearly 1.8 million acres in California to receive protection.

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President Obama will name three new national monuments in southern California today, putting almost 1.8 million acres of desert under permanent protection, according to a statement from the White House.

The largest by far of the three is the 1.6-million-acre Mojave Trails National Monument, which includes 400,000 acres of designated wilderness, as well as the longest remaining stretch of Route 66. The Sand to Snow National Monument will span 154,000 acres from the deserts near Palm Springs to Mount San Gorgonio (the area’s highest peak, at 8,294 feet), including a 30-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. The Castle Mountains National Monument will cover 20,920 acres of the Mojave Desert, habitat for golden eagles, bobcats, and other hard-to-spot fauna.

Over the past seven years, Obama has conserved more territory than any other president before him, placing more than 265 million acres of land and water under federal protection. Mojave Trails is the second-largest such designation, after an expansion to Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument the administration announced in 2014.

The three monuments are a long-time project of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who has been attempting to win federal protection for them in Congress since 2009, but made little progress amidst disagreements with Congressional Republicans and local officials, many of whom objected to the mining restrictions that national monument status would bring with it. Last August, she changed tacks, asking President Obama to use his powers under the antiquities act to designate the monuments.

In a statement from her office, Feinstein lauded the decision.

“I’m full of pride and joy knowing that future generations will be able to explore these national monuments and that the land will remain as pristine as it is today,” she said. “To a city girl like me, this expanse of desert, with its ruggedness and unique beauty, is nothing short of awe inspiring.”

To celebrate the designation, the Department of the Interior is sharing photos from the three new national monuments, as well as other lands protected by the administration, on the White House’s Instagram account today.

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