A meteor streaks through the sky over Joshua trees and rocks at Joshua Tree National Monument in Southern California's Mojave Desert. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon/Evan Vucci, File)
President Obama designates three new national monuments
February 19, 2016
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President Barack Obama has granted national monument status to nearly 1.8 million acres of scenic Southern California desert. It is a move the White House says will maintain in perpetuity the region's fragile ecosystem and natural resources. It also will provide recreational opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters and others.
Obama signed proclamations establishing three regions as national monuments. They are Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains (both in the Mojave Desert) and Sand to Snow in the Sonoran Desert.
The White House says the designations will nearly double the amount of public land that Obama has designated as national monument status since taking office.
"The monuments will support climate resiliency in the region," the White House added in a statement.
The designations will also connect those regions to other protected government land. Those include Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and 15 other federal wilderness areas.
Mojave Trails National Monument takes up 1.6 million acres. It is by far the largest of the three new ones.
Sprawling across the vast Mojave Desert, it contains ancient lava flows and spectacular sand dunes. There are ancient Native American trading routes and World War II-era training camps. It also contains the largest remaining undeveloped stretch of America's Mother Road. It is along historic Route 66.
Castle Mountains National Monument is also in the Mojave Desert. It links two mountain ranges. The area covers nearly 21,000 acres that hold numerous important Native American archaeological sites. The area is also home to golden eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and other wildlife.
Sand to Snow National Monument rises from the floor of the Sonoran Desert to the 11,503-foot peak of Mount San Gorgonio. It is Southern California's tallest alpine peak.
Its diverse landscape includes the headwaters of the state's Santa Ana and Whitewater rivers. It is home to 240 species of birds and 12 endangered or threatened species of wildlife. It also contains an estimated 1,700 Native American petroglyphs and 30 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Petroglyphs are ancient carvings in stone.
The federal Antiquities Act, adopted in 1906, grants the president the authority to protect landmarks, structures and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as national monuments.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do deserts need to be protected?
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