U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has asked President Obama to bypass Congress and create the Mojave Trails National Monument in Southern California that would encompass Route 66 from the edge of Needles to Ludlow.
Feinstein sent a letter Aug. 3 to the president urging him to take action after two such bills have languished in Washington for six years. She wrote:
The proposed Mojave Trails monument would encompass sweeping desert landscapes in the East Mojave along historic Route 66. Monument designation would protect prized Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered public land such as Sleeping Beauty Valley and the Cady Mountains, as we_ll as critical wildlife corridors between Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. The Mojave Trails area includes iconic desert vistas, majestic mountain ranges, prehistoric lava flow areas, extinct volcanoes and fossil beds. It is home to desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards, a portion of California’s largest cactus garden and rare plants, such as the crucifixion thorn that dates back to the ice age. The BLM currently manages much of this area to protect the desert environment through administratively-created Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and Desert Wildlife Management Areas protecting the habitat of the threatened desert tortoise and many other listed and sensitive species.
Feinstein also told the president she wants the Cadiz Valley, which is south of the Mojave Trails area, to be incorporated with such a designation.
She said designating it as a national monument would give economic benefits in tourism spending. She cited the 3.2 million visitors last year to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve that spent $191 million in communities near the parks and supported 2,751 jobs in the area.
A report in the Los Angeles Times pointed out much of the land in question was bought years ago by citizens or conservation groups, then turned over to the Bureau of Land Management, with the anticipation it eventually would designated a national monument.
Obama made no statement about Feinstein’s letter. However, it should be noted 14 of 19 presidents since the establishment of the U.S. park system have designated national monuments. So doing it is not unusual for a commander-in-chief of either party.
(Image of the Mojave Desert near Siberia, California, by Patrick Dirden via Flickr)