A declaration of a Mojave Trails National Monument that would include almost all of Route 66 from Needles to Barstow, California, is coming within days, according to a lengthy article by the San Francisco Chronicle.
For six years, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has tried to get such a Mojave Trails National Monument designation through Congress, but the legislation has stalled despite widespread support of it from Californians.
That leaves President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to invoke a 1906 law to declare the designation himself. The newspaper reported:
Within days, President Obama is expected to invoke the Antiquities Act, at Feinstein’s request, to create three national monuments preserving 1,380,350 acres of these lands, including a long stretch of Route 66. Republicans oppose the designation as executive overreach; they have proposed the same three monuments, but would open the Route 66 area to mining. […]
“To industrialize it, to tear it up, to abuse it, to rape it, would be a travesty,” said Jim Conkle, a former Marine known as Mr. Route 66. “People see the Mojave Desert as this vast wasteland. I see it as an ocean without water. There’s so much there. If we don’t take care of it, it’s gone forever.”
Obama began the process for the Mojave Trails National Monument presidential declaration in the fall by holding a public hearing.
U.S. Rep. Paul Cook proposed alternate legislation that would allow mining in the Mojave area, but it is opposed by two-thirds of Californians. Victorville recently declined to endorse Cook’s bill. An official with the Amargosa Conservancy called the bill “fundamentally out of step with the hopes and desires of desert residents and desert lovers from across the country.”
The criticism by Republicans of presidential overreach doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, as 14 of 19 presidents since the birth of the U.S. park system have used executive authority to declare national monuments, including the previous Republican president.
Backers of Feinstein’s proposal say the declaration would deliver a big economic boost to the area by bringing more tourists. Owners of businesses in Amboy and Ludlow undoubtedly would see a nice bump in visitors.
(Image of a sunset at Roy’s in Amboy, California, by Dave Reichert via Flickr)