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Biden established national monuments and marine sanctuaries in the West

President Biden said Tuesday he is establishing national monuments in Nevada and Texas and creating a marine sanctuary in U.S. waters off remote Pacific islands southwest of Hawaii. Mr Biden called the conservation measures part of an effort to “protect the heart and soul of our national pride”.

Speaking at the White House’s Conservation Action Summit, Mr. Biden said the new national monuments are among the “natural resources” that “define our identity as a nation. They are a birthright we must pass down from generation to generation.”

“Our national wonders are literally the envy of the world,” the president said in a speech at the Home Department. “They have always been and always will be at the heart of our heritage as a people and essential to our identity as a nation.”

Mr. Biden has designated Avi Qua Ame, a desert mountain in southern Nevada that Native Americans consider a national monument, along with the new Castner Range National Monument in El Paso, Texas. He also moved to create a national marine sanctuary in US waters around remote islands in the Pacific.

The Nevada site covers more than 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) and includes Spirit Mountain, a peak northwest of Laughlin called Avi Koa Ame (ah-vee’ koa-meh) by the Fort Mojave Tribe and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The rugged landscape near the Arizona and California state lines is home to bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and a large density of Joshua trees, some of which are more than 900 years old.


Laughlin Town Advisory Board Chair Cathy Ochs speaks about the bill to designate the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain and its surrounding landscape, Avi Koa Ame, as Nevada’s new national monument during a press conference at Springs Preserve on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Las Vegas. (By LE Basco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

In Texas, the Kastner Range designation will protect cultural, scientific and historic objects, honor U.S. veterans, service members and tribal nations and expand access to outdoor recreation on public lands, Biden said. Located at Fort Bliss, Castner Range served as a training and testing site for the U.S. Army during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The Army ceased training at the site and closed the Kastner Range in 1966.

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

In the Pacific, Mr. Biden directed the Commerce Department to initiate a national marine sanctuary designation to protect 777,000 square miles around remote Pacific islands. When completed, the new sanctuary will help ensure that the United States reaches its goal of conserving at least 30% of ocean water by 2030, according to the White House.

The area to be protected is “bigger than Alaska and Colorado combined,” Mr. Biden said.

The president also announced other measures to preserve, restore and expand access to public lands and water across the country. The proposals seek to harness the power of the ocean to modernize the management of America’s public lands, fight climate change and better preserve wildlife corridors, the White House said. Mr. Biden announced new spending to improve access to outdoor recreation, promote tribal conservation and reduce wildfire risk.

Mr Biden’s moves come as he faces fierce criticism from environmental groups and youth activists for his huge endorsement. Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.

The president has made the fight against global warming a central part of his agenda and has pledged to cut global-warming greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. But Willow’s decision has alienated supporters, especially young activists who are skeptical of a political compromise at the same time. Biden is set to announce his re-election campaign.

Climate activists gathered outside the Interior Department on Tuesday to denounce what they called Mr. Biden’s “climate hypocrisy” and demand the administration change course in Willow.

Protesters held a large yellow banner that read, “Stop the Willow Oil Project” and chanted, “No more drilling, no more drilling, no more drilling on federal lands.”

The Willow Project has gained global attention in recent weeks as a #stopwillow campaign has gone viral across social media platforms, particularly on TikTok, garnering more than 600 million views and a change.org petition garnering more than 4 million signatures, making it one of The most popular petition in the website’s history.

White House officials acknowledged anger among Mr. Biden’s supporters over Willow but emphasized that oil giant ConocoPhillips has held a lease in the area in Alaska for decades, strengthening the Houston-based company’s legal right to drill.

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

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

“To the indigenous people who designate Avi Kwa Ame as their spiritual birthplace, and every Nevadan who knows the value of our cherished public lands: Today is for you,” tweeted Rep. Deanna Titus, D-Nevada, who sponsored a bill. Protect rugged terrain near the Mojave National Preserve from development with solar farms and a proposed wind farm.

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

Rep. Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, said the Castner Range monument would “preserve fragile lands already surrounded on three sides by development,” help ensure access to clean water and protect rare and endangered species.

Fort Mojave Tribal Chairman Timothy Williams, who attended the conservation summit, said tribes across the Southwest consider Avi Kwa Ame to be sacred land. Biden’s creation of a new monument demonstrated his “commitment to respect for tribal nations and our nation’s race relations.”

Under the leadership of Mr. Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Holland, the first Native American cabinet member, “we have a seat at the table and we see an unprecedented era and opportunity for our tribal communities,” Williams said.

The Honor Avi Kwa Ame coalition, which includes tribes, local residents, state lawmakers and conservation groups, said its members were “delighted” to learn the site would become 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 Southern Nevada’s local towns and cities by a stunning new monument in their backyard,” the team said. .

Mr. Biden designated his first national monument in Colorado last year. In 2021, he restored the boundaries of Bears Ear National Monument in Utah after they were significantly narrowed by President Donald Trump.


Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Washington and Rio Yamat in Las Vegas contributed to this story.

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