Protection of National Monuments in California from industries extracting the land’s natural resources was discussed on a campus panel before the spring break.
The Panel was a part of the High Desert National Monument campaign, ran by Environment California, the Mojave Desert Land Trust, and the Wilderness Society. The campaign is focused on keeping the monument’s natural ecosystems safe by educating the public and encouraging them to get involved. National monuments are protected areas where there’s no further development allowed as under the antiquity act of 1906.
The panel included three speakers: Bret Weinberger, campaign organizer for Environment California, Jacqueline Guevara who was Director of Education and Public Engagement of the Mojave Desert Land Trust, and Jihadda M. Govan, Monument Manager for the United States Department of Agriculture. Each member discussed the importance of protecting the monuments, shared their personal experiences and educated the audience on how they could help the cause.
“These are protected areas, these are wilderness areas, where we see animal species and plant species, and we can educate our generation and the next generation about what wonders there are out there in nature,” said panelist Bret Weinberger.
Until recently, there has never been an attempt to change the protection of these monuments.
According to Bret Weinberger, the Trump administration is attempting to remove the title of National Monument from these places, allowing industries to extract resources which could harm their natural ecosystems. This will lead to changes of the lands environment and could potentially diminish public visitation.
The High Desert National Monuments are made of three major regions: Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and the Castle Mountains. All three monuments are diverse in their sights and species and are a short drive from our local communities.
Sand to Snow is over 154,000 acres of land ranging from the Sonoran Desert to the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain. Its multiple ecosystems make it the most biodiverse of any national monument in the country. The Mojave Trails and Castle Mountain monuments feature sand dunes, springs from underground water, desert grasslands and mountain ranges.
People are welcome to visit each monument for various activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, camping and other types of recreation. The Mojave Desert Land Trust plays a big role in preserving these areas for the public to enjoy these activities.
“The land trust is an organization that primarily acquires lands based on a number of different criteria… “ said panelist Jacqueline Guevara regarding the Mojave Desert Land Trust “…usually we convey lands back to whatever public lands agency we’re closest to but sometimes we hold in perpetuity for educational purposes and we usually turn the land around in 5-10 years which is faster than the government can do it, and we restore the land back to its natural state before we turn it back.”
The organization provides regular volunteer opportunities for cleaning the land, restoring trails and also offer excursions to educate the public about native species, culture, and history of the area.
More volunteer opportunities are also available through Environment California. They are an environmental advocacy organization that researches environmental issues and educates the public about them. They also offer solutions to these issues and encourage the public take action in helping to preserve all different environments.
A specific area the panel discussed is Mojave Trails monument as it is currently in the most danger of resource extraction right now. Cadiz Water Project plans to remove water from the monument and transport it to Orange County. The process may harm Mojave Trails natural environment, and change or diminish the ecosystem.
This campaigns purpose is to let Congress know that locals support keeping the National Monuments as they are, specifically addressing congressman Paul Cook of district 8. Environment California plans to send him a petition with 1,200 signatures saying the public stand by protecting the monuments.
The campaign plans to run for as long as Trump’s presidency lasts, or until it is certain the monuments are protected.
“We need to make sure that our local politicians, that means our congressmen, know that the locals really support these places, we need mayors to step up, we need everybody on our side,” said panelist Bret Weinberger.