President Barack Obama today will name three national monuments in the California desert, including the Mojave Trails National Monument that includes Route 66 from Needles to Ludlow.
According to the Associated Press, Obama will announce it today, but multiple news media outlets reported the president’s imminent actions just before midnight Central time Thursday.
The designation, where the president will invoke the 1906 Antiquities Act, was expected since fall when required hearings were held in those areas. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein had tried to shepherd such legislation through Congress for six years and asked the president to invoke the law.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported late Thursday:
At 1.6 million acres, Mojave Trails is the largest of the three monuments, protecting 105 miles of Route 66 and linking Joshua Tree National Park with the Mojave National Preserve. Castle Mountains is a high desert grassland with thriving Joshua tree forests that completes the Mojave Preserve. Sand to Snow preserves a critical elevation corridor from the desert floor near Palm Springs to the San Bernardino Mountains.
“All the work we’ve done has paid off,” said Jim Conkle, a former Marine known as Mr. Route 66. “We are able to save our desert and the areas designated as monuments forever, for posterity, for our children’s children. … Of all the things I’ve done, it’s the one thing I can be proudest of.”
Republicans already have criticized Obama’s imminent move as presidential overreach. However, the criticisms don’t pass the smell test because 14 of the last 19 presidents have declared national monuments, including Obama’s Republican predecessor. The Antiquities Act also has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Conservation Lands Foundation stated in a news release late Thursday:
The national monuments will be accessible to the public for recreation activities including hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, fishing, and bird watching. The designations also protect important aspects of our country’s history, including the longest undeveloped stretch of historic Route 66 and stunning cultural sites, including Native American petroglyphs. […]
The Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments will continue to be managed by the BLM and become part of the growing system of protected lands around the West that are set aside for conservation and managed by the BLM as part of the National Conservation Lands.
The Center for Biological Diversity reported:
The Mojave Trails National Monument preserves 1.6 million acres of diverse and striking desert lands and helps to link Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. Named for the most pristine stretch of historic Route 66, with wide-open desert vistas, the lands in the national monument are habitat for threatened desert tortoises, iconic desert bighorn sheep and many other desert dwellers. National monument status protects the existing uses of these lands for outdoor enjoyment and maintains key wildlife connections between Joshua Tree and the Mojave National Preserve and wilderness areas.
We’ll have more about this presidential action as it happens today.
(Image of Amboy Crater and Route 66 near Amboy, California, by the Bureau of Land Management via Flickr)