Obama announcement is major milestone in Feinstein’s decades-long effort to protect California desert
Feinstein will introduce legislation to implement provisions that monument designation doesn’t address
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today expressed strong support for President Obama’s designation of three new national monuments in the California desert: the Mojave Trails National Monument, the Sand to Snow National Monument and Castle Mountains National Monument.
Feinstein requested the designations in an August 2015 letter.
Feinstein released the following statement:
“The effort to preserve the California desert has been a long one, and today is a major milestone. Since we passed the 1994 desert conservation bill, we’ve tried to build on its legacy.
“It hasn’t been easy, as we’ve been trying to get an additional bill enacted for more than six years. My staff and I have spent hundreds of hours working with the diverse range of stakeholders—local and state government officials, environmental groups, off-highway recreation groups, cattle ranchers, mining interests, the Department of Defense, wind and solar energy companies, the public utility companies and many others. All of them were at the table as we strived to achieve consensus. That bill has not yet passed, so the president’s declaration is all important to carry out the protection needed.
“I’m full of pride and joy knowing that future generations will be able to explore these national monuments and that the land will remain as pristine as it is today. To a city girl like me, this expanse of desert, with its ruggedness and unique beauty, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
“When I think of the desert, I think of the shadows as they fall across the landscape, the wildflowers in the spring, the big-horn sheep standing in the distance, and looking down at your feet and seeing a 80-year old desert tortoise. I think about visitors finding solitude, and the brilliance of the stars at night, when you can barely hear a sound. I think about the stunning mountains and valleys, the rare species and wildlife, Joshua trees, Indian petroglyphs, lava flows and fossils.
“These observations are irreplaceable, and remind me why desert protection is so vital and important. Thanks to the president, this can protection can be achieved.
“This kind of landscape is so much a part of what the West once was, and these monuments are icons of our cultural heritage. Simply put, the California desert is a national treasure. This designation only reaffirms that fact.
“I thank President Obama, the Department of the Interior and all the indefatigable advocates in the desert who helped make this a reality.
“My strong preference has always been to balance the many uses of the desert through legislation, and that remains the case today. I plan to introduce new legislation that includes provisions of the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015 the president was not able to enact through executive action. Those carefully negotiated provisions—which represent our best attempt to achieve consensus among desert stakeholders—deserve to become law.
“That legislation includes many additional conservation areas and provides permanent protection for five Off-Highway Recreation Areas covering approximately 142,000 acres. Off-roaders were a vital part of the coalition we put together, and unfortunately those lands could not be designated under executive action. Off-roaders deserve certainty about their future use of the land, just as there is now certainty for conservation purposes. Today, I renew my pledge to work closely with the off-road community.
“Public input in desert conservation is absolutely vital. The diverse views of the desert stakeholders have guided my work since I arrived in the Senate, and I’m glad to see them reflected in the monument designations.
"Last year, I was overjoyed to stand in Whitewater Canyon in blistering heat to listen to the thousand people who came out to show how important this designation is to them.
“Public input cannot stop here. As the administration develops and implements the management plan for the new national monuments, I urge all who care about the desert to continue to make your voices heard.”