President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced he will establish a new national monument across a vast landscape on southern Nevada’s border with California to protect an area sacred to 12 Native American tribes and rich with big horn sheep, Joshua tree forests, desert tortoises, ancient petroglyphs and other unique features.
The 450,000-acre monument will be located on federally owned property overseen by Bureau of Land Management Land in Clark County, Nevada, including most of the point in Nevada’s southern shape.
Covering an area 15 times the size of the city of San Francisco, it will connect multiple wilderness areas, preserves and parks in California and Nevada, including Mojave National Preserve to the west and Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the east.
The largest national monument that Biden has established so far during his presidency, the area will be named the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, which in the Mojave language means “Spirit Mountain.”
“Look, there’s so much more, there’s so much more that we’re going to do to protect the treasured tribal lands,” Biden told a group of tribal leaders at the White House Wednesday for a tribal nations summit. “When it comes to Spirit Mountain and surrounding ridges and canyons in southern Nevada, I’m committed to protecting this sacred place that is central to the creation story of so many tribes that are here today.”
The fact that this is being done by working with the tribes is also a critically important advancement in how we think about the public lands, given that the entire concept of the public lands rested on stripping tribes from the land. This was also a big last goal of Harry Reid, so it honors his legacy too. It pretty much covers all the public land around his home of Searchlight.
Next is quite likely the Castner Range outside of El Paso, which is on military land. As this New Yorker article on it discusses, Texas has almost no public land (anything approaching a hiking trail near Austin is now totally overwhelmed and sometimes require timed reservations) and communities of color, which most certainly describes El Paso, are really underserved by the public lands, so this has a lot of potential to be a very good thing.