With the naming of the desert monuments, let's acknowledge desert biodiversity
Deserts tend to be extreme, yet underrated environments. Extreme in temperatures, with storms in sharp, punctuated pulses. Underrated in the sense that our image of wilderness tends to focus on grizzly bears and orcas, rather than kangaroo rats and Cholla cactus. But southwestern deserts made noise last week, as three desert areas of southeastern California became the 11th, 12th, and 13th national monuments declared by President Barack Obama, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, over the last seven years.
The Mojave Trails National Monument (1.6 million acres), the Sand to Snow National Monument (154,000 acres), and the Castle Mountains National Monument (21,000 acres) provide links between the existing Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, and were championed by Senator Diane Feinstein of California. From a political perspective, this action is noteworthy because much of it comes from private land holdings that were donated to the Bureau of Land Management in anticipation of land preservation. For the region of southern California, this marks four new national monuments in the last 12 months, including the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (347,000 acres) outside of Los Angeles. For a selective timeline of federal land preservation through a few of the many national parks and national monuments, please see below.
The national focus on these new land protections gives us the opportunity to highlight desert biodiversity. Tropical jungles and coral reefs conjure images of vast species diversity. But desert plants and animals can handle the heat, conserve water, and flourish with a ruggedness we often forget.
Google chrome users: click here to download a RSS extension