Anybody who enjoys visiting national monuments will now need to add two more destinations to their list.
President Joe Biden has designated two new national monuments in the southwestern U.S. The proclamation preserves and protects the Avi Kwa Ame area, known as Spirit Mountain, in Nevada, and Castner Range, a former military training and test site near El Paso, Texas.
Together, they account for nearly 514,000 acres.
Here’s what you need to know about the two new national monuments:
Avi Kwa Ame National Monument
The Mojave, Chemehuevi, and some Southern Paiute people consider Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada to be among the most sacred places on earth, the White House explains. It’s also important to other Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples including the Cocopah, Halchidhoma, Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Kumeyaay, Maricopa, Pai Pai, Quechan, Yavapai, and Zuni tribes.
Yuman-speaking people believe the mountain is the spiritual birthplace of the tribes; where their ancient ancestors emerged into this world.
The area, which is home to a Joshua tree forest, also provides continuous habitat or migration corridors for species such as the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, and Gila monster.
The nearly 507,000-acre national monument protects sacred places such as Avi Kwa Ame, Spirit Mountain, which is designated as a Traditional Cultural Property on the National Register of Historic Places due to its religious and cultural importance. However, monument designation also ensures continued access to hunting, camping, hiking, off-highway vehicle use, photography, and other recreational activities.
A group known as the Honor Avi Kwa Ame coalition has lobbied for national monument designation for quite some time.
“The President’s action today will safeguard these hundreds of thousands of acres in southern Nevada bearing great cultural, ecological, and economic significance to our state,” the Honor Avi Kwa Ame coalition said in a statement.
Castner Range National Monument
Castner Range, located on Fort Bliss outside El Paso, Texas, is a 6,672-acre area that was used by the U.S. Army for training and testing during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The Army stopped training and testing at the site in 1966.
Importantly, before the Army used the land, the area was home to the Apache and Pueblo peoples, the Comanche Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, the White House explains.
Indeed, the Castner Range area features more than 40 archeological sites where living structures, hearths, remnants of pottery and other tools, and petroglyphs and images on rock faces have been found. These sites document the history of Tribal Nations, according to the White House.
Although Castner Range is currently closed to public access due to unexploded ordnance, it is home to wildlife including the American peregrine falcon, golden eagles, black-tailed prairie dogs, and Texas horned lizards. Protecting the Castner Range area, which connects with Franklin Mountains State Park, will create a continuous habitat for wildlife.
After the area has been remediated and is considered safe for public access, Castner Range will also be a place where people can “experience, explore, and learn from nature,” the White House continues.
“The challenges El Paso has faced — poverty, pollution, inequality, climate change — are the results of broken relationships,” conservation advocate and Pastor Moses Borjas of Living Covenant Church in El Paso said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.
“The designation of Castner Range as a national monument adds to the healing process that our city needs in these times,” Borjas said. “Protecting Castner Range is not only protecting our mountains and wildlife, it’s protecting our history, heritage, and our legacy.”
Plans For A Marine Sanctuary
In another conservation-minded move, President Biden also announced plans to possibly protect certain U.S. waters by creating a marine sanctuary.
Indeed, Biden has directed the Secretary of Commerce to consider initiating a new National Marine Sanctuary designation to protect all U.S. waters around the Pacific Remote Islands. If the sanctuary is completed, it will be a significant step toward meeting Biden’s goal of conserving at least 30 percent of ocean waters under American jurisdiction by 2030.