Whitewater, California - U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor and USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie Tuesday visited the Mojave Desert of California to join a public meeting and hear from the community about its vision for the management of public lands in the region.
Connor and Bonnie visited California at the invitation of Sen. Feinstein, who has introduced legislation to conserve portions of the Mojave Desert and enhance public recreational access. Sen. Feinstein has also asked President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate three new national monuments - Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument.
"The Mojave Desert of Southern California is a resource beloved by millions of Americans for its stark beauty, rich cultural history and outdoor recreational opportunities," said Deputy Secretary Connor. "For more than 20 years, Sen. Feinstein has led the charge to protect the most special places in the desert, and we support her efforts to preserve these areas for the benefit of future generations. Opportunities like this to hear directly from the local and tribal communities about their vision for conservation and land management are essential to our work as land managers."
"In addition to its diverse tribal heritage, the San Gorgonio Mountain region serves as an important recreational hub for the 24 million people that are within a two-hour drive," said Bonnie. "We appreciate hearing from such a broad range of voices today and we look forward to working with all interested parties as the dialogue continues."
Today's visit builds on U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's decades-long effort to protect the most special places of the California desert and San Bernardino Mountain range and contributes to the Obama Administration's ongoing work to support locally-driven efforts to preserve and protect places that hold special meaning to communities across the country.
"In my view, the California desert is an American treasure that is highly worthy of preservation. I think the public meeting today only further proved that," Sen. Feinstein said. "Public input in desert conservation is absolutely vital. I've worked with the desert stakeholders for years, and I know how diverse their views are-which makes discussions like these even more important. I'm especially grateful that Deputy Secretary Connor and Under Secretary Bonnie attended and were able to hear local goals for the desert, and I thank the Obama administration for considering these monuments."
Senator Feinstein's proposal would protect more than one million acres in San Bernardino County as the Mojave Trails National Monument. The area, known for its spectacular vistas and intact stretch of historic Route 66, would connect the Mojave National Preserve to the north with Joshua Tree National Park to the south. The Sand to Snow National Monument would span up to 140,000 acres from the snowy mountain peaks of the San Bernardino National Forest to the desert sands of Joshua Tree National Park, including some of the most biologically and culturally rich areas in southern California. The Castle Mountains National Monument would add 20,000 acres of key desert grassland to be managed by the National Park Service as a part of the Mojave National Preserve while respecting existing mining operations in the area.
Today's public meeting included speakers from area tribes, local governments, off-highway vehicle users, and conservation organizations. The meeting also provided ample opportunity for public comment.
As part of their visit, Deputy Secretary Connor and Under Secretary Bonnie, alongside other state and local community members, toured portions of the proposed monument area within the Mojave Desert. The California desert provides significant recreation opportunities for local communities, for the nearby Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas, and for visitors from around the world. The area contains opportunities for off-highway vehicle travel, hiking, camping, mountain biking, and rock climbing. These uses would be protected under Sen. Feinstein's proposal.