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President Obama to Declare Three New Monuments in Southern Calif.

President Obama announced the creation of a new Mojave Trails National Monument today, along with two others: Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. (bryn_jones)
President Obama announced the creation of a new Mojave Trails National Monument today, along with two others: Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. (bryn_jones)
February 12, 2016

The southern California desert soon will have three new national monuments - Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. The White House announced today that President Obama intends to use his authority this week under the Antiquities Act to establish the monuments, since Congress has failed to act on them.

Clifford Trafzer, a professor of history and American Indian Affairs at the University of California-Riverside, said the designation is very important for scholars and should help protect the area's heritage.

"This pact will provide a layer of protection for cultural resources - including archaeological objects, village sites, burials - that will tell us about life during a time of many cultural and climate changes," he said.

National monument status means the lands will be permanently protected and the public can continue to access these places for outdoor recreation activities. In addition, any pre-existing mining and industrial claims still will be honored.

Susan Sorrells, whose family has owned a small hotel and RV park in Shoshone since the 1970s, said these areas already draw millions of tourists and support thousands of jobs. She expects monument designation to boost the local economy even more.

"Being fourth-generation, I'm really tied to the land," she said, "and so, I see ecotourism as a win-win for everyone - for the land, for the communities, and a win-win for the tourists, because the land is so awesome."

The new monuments also establish wildlife corridors, protecting habitat for thousands of desert species, including the bighorn sheep and desert tortoise.

Mojave Trails will link the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. "Sand to Snow" links the San Gorgonio Wilderness to Joshua Tree and the San Bernardino National Forest.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA