“Biden Administration Should Consider Expanding California’s National Monuments”

California’s quest to conserve its diverse and ecologically rich lands has received a significant boost with the approval of a goal to conserve at least 30% of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030. However, this effort faces challenges as nearly half of California’s land is federally owned.

To aid in meeting these conservation goals, President Biden has the opportunity to make a significant impact by designating two new national monuments and expanding two existing ones, thereby protecting approximately 1 million acres of land. Two of these proposals are in Southern California, with plans to create the Chuckwalla National Monument and expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by 109,000 acres.

In Northern California, the proposals include adding 13,753 acres to the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument to protect Molok Luyuk, or Condor Ridge, and creating the 200,000-acre Medicine Lake Highlands National Monument near Mt. Shasta.

California’s congressional representatives have introduced legislation to support these proposals, but due to the political landscape, the proposals are not likely to pass in the Republican-controlled House. However, President Biden has the authority, through the 1906 Antiquities Act, to designate federal lands as national monuments through proclamation, a power used by presidents from both parties throughout history.

The expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is especially significant, as the area provides approximately 30% of L.A. County’s water and is vital habitat for rare, endangered, and endemic species. It also serves as an essential outdoor escape for millions of people in Southern California, including those in park-poor neighborhoods.

The Chuckwalla National Monument proposal is equally important, as it includes crucial habitat for a variety of wildlife and holds cultural significance to Indigenous tribes. Its designation as a national monument would boost the tourism economy and benefit park-deprived communities in the eastern Coachella Valley.

Despite opposition from some groups, there are indications that the Biden administration is receptive to these conservation efforts. Meetings with tribal and community leaders and public listening sessions are positive signs that these proposals may come to fruition.

By creating and expanding these national monuments, President Biden has the opportunity to enhance his environmental legacy and contribute significantly to the protection of California’s natural treasures.

Historically, national monuments have played a crucial role in preserving America’s natural and cultural heritage. From the iconic Devils Tower designated by President Theodore Roosevelt to the recent designations surrounding Grand Canyon National Park and in the Mojave Desert, national monuments are a testament to America’s commitment to conserving its irreplaceable landscapes.

As the Biden administration considers these proposals, it has the opportunity to carry on this tradition and ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from the breathtaking beauty and ecological richness of California’s lands.

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