Joe Biden adds new national monuments in Nevada, Texas

President Joe Biden is establishing national monuments in Nevada and Texas and creating a marine sanctuary in US waters near remote Pacific islands southwest of Hawaii.

The Democratic president will announce the measures Tuesday at a White House summit on conservation actions at the Department of the Interior.

Biden said in November that he intends to designate Avi Kwa Ame, a desert mountain in southern Nevada that is considered sacred to Native Americans, as a national monument. The site encompasses more than 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) and includes Spirit Mountain, a peak northwest of Laughlin named Avi Kwa Ame (ah-VEE’ kwa-meh) by the Fort Mojave Tribe and listed on the National Register of Places Historical.

The rugged landscape near the Arizona and California state lines is home to bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and a large concentration of Joshua trees, some of which are more than 900 years old.

In Texas, Biden plans to create the Castner Range National Monument in El Paso. The designation will protect cultural, scientific and historical objects within the monument’s boundaries, honor U.S. veterans, service members and tribal nations, and expand access to outdoor recreation on public lands, the House said. White.

Located at Fort Bliss, Castner Range served as a training and testing site for the US Army during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The Army stopped training at the site and closed Castner Range in 1966.

Together, the two new national monuments protect nearly 514,000 acres (208,000 hectares) of public land.

In the Pacific, Biden will direct the Commerce Department to consider initiating a new national marine sanctuary designation within 30 days to protect all US waters around remote Pacific islands. If completed, the new sanctuary would help ensure the United States meets Biden’s goal of conserving at least 30% of ocean waters under US jurisdiction by 2030, the White House said.

Biden will also announce a series of steps to preserve, restore and expand access to public land and water across the country, the White House said. The proposals seek to modernize the management of America’s public lands, harness the power of the ocean to help combat climate change and better conserve wildlife corridors. Biden will also announce new spending to improve access to outdoor recreation, promote tribal conservation, and reduce the risk of wildfires.

Biden’s actions come as he faces heavy criticism from environmental groups and youth activists for his approval of the massive Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.

Biden has made fighting global warming a central part of his agenda, and White House officials have championed efforts to put the United States on track to meet Biden’s goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse warming the planet by 2030.

But the Willow decision has alienated supporters, particularly young activists skeptical of political engagement at the same time Biden plans to announce his re-election campaign.

Climate activists are expected to gather outside the Department of the Interior on Tuesday to condemn what they call Biden’s “climate hypocrisy” and demand that the administration reverse course on Willow.

The Willow Project has garnered global attention in recent weeks as a #stopwillow campaign went viral on social media platforms, most notably garnering over 600 million views on TikTok and amassing over 4 million signatures on a petition, making it one of the most popular petitions in the website’s history.

White House officials have acknowledged outrage among Biden supporters over Willow, but stressed that oil giant ConocoPhillips has held leases in that area of ​​Alaska for decades, strengthening the company’s legal right to drill with headquarters in Houston.

Environmental groups have already sued in a renewed effort to block Willow.

Conservation and tribal groups praised Biden’s action. The Avi Kwa Ame landscape is sacred to 12 tribes and is home to wildlife and rare plants, while the Castner Range is the ancestral land of the Comanche and Apache peoples, and its cultural ecology is considered sacred to several indigenous communities.

“To the natives who mark Avi Kwa Ame as their spiritual birthplace, and to all Nevadans who know the value of our precious public lands: today is for you,” tweeted Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, who sponsored a bill to protect the rugged region near the Mojave National Preserve from development, including solar farms and a proposed wind farm.

“Spirit Mountain will now be protected for future generations,” Titus added.

The Castner Range monument will “preserve fragile lands that are already surrounded on three sides by development,” help ensure access to clean water and protect rare and endangered species, said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. .

Fort Mojave Tribal Chairman Timothy Williams, who is in Washington for the conservation summit, said the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument designation is “a great example of the opportunity that exists when tribal, federal, state and locals work together for conservation, restoration and stewardship solutions.

The Honor Avi Kwa Ame coalition, which includes tribes, local residents, state legislators and conservation groups, said its members were “overjoyed” to learn that the site will be a new national monument.

“Together, we will honor Avi Kwa Ame today, from its rich indigenous history, to its vast and diverse flora and fauna, to the outdoor recreation opportunities created for local cities and towns in southern Nevada by a beautiful new monument right in your backyard. the group said.

Biden designated his first national monument, in Colorado, last year. In 2021, he restored the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah after President Donald Trump, a Republican, significantly reduced them.