On Tuesday, March 21, President Joe Biden made the move to designate both Avi Kwa Ame in southern Nevada, and the Castner Range located in West Texas, as national monuments. In doing so, Biden has ensured that both areas, equal to over half a million acres, will be protected from future development. The Biden Administration continues to pride itself on its commitment to preserving historically and scientifically significant sites, along with its fight to conserve and restore outdoor spaces around the U.S. and honor culturally significant areas for U.S. citizens.
According to the White House, designating these areas as national monuments is intended to honor Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Nations along with preserving their biodiversity. The Avi Kwa Ame National Monument spans 506,814 acres and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Park Service. It is home to desert bighorn sheep, Gila monsters, desert tortoises, and Arizona toads, and protecting this area will give them the space to thrive without outside influence. This area is also the home of the largest Joshua tree in Nevada within an ancient Joshua tree forest which will now be protected from any kind of land development.
The Avi Kwa Ame, or the Spirit Mountain area, is among some of the most sacred areas around the world to the Mojave, Chemehuevi, and some Southern Paiute people. According to the White House, it is also of extreme importance to other Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples including, but not limited to, the Cocopah, Halchidhoma, Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Kumeyaay, Maricopa, Pai Pai, Quechan, Yavapai, and Zuni Tribes. According to NPR, Indigenous groups and local leaders are reportedly in favor of the move as people and tribes have been fighting to protect the area for years.
The Castner Range, located in Fort Bliss, was previously a training and testing site for the US Army for the duration of several different eras of war up until 1966. This means that the area must be remediated before it will be safe enough to be opened up for public use. But, once the area is successfully restored, according to the Biden Administration, it will expand the accessibility of the outdoors to underserved communities in the area, specifically those who have had decreased access to our country’s public lands in the past.
Protecting the Castner Range reportedly connects the area with the Franklin Mountains State Park, which leaves room for increased protection of the wildlife and biodiversity of the area along with improved access to outdoor recreation for the El Paso community. The Castner Range is reportedly a culturally significant site for many Tribal Nations such as the Apache and Pueblo peoples as well as the Comanche Nation, Hopi Tribe, and Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma. This further solidifies the Biden Administration’s commitment to protecting and preserving culturally and historically significant areas around the country.
The preservation of these areas is not only culturally significant, but it will also increase opportunities for more Americans to enjoy the outdoors and further influence the protection of our planet. The designation of these sites as National Monuments will not inhibit people from enjoying the outdoor recreation they provide, and the increased availability of outdoor recreation will coincide with restoring and conserving the habitats of the areas’ flora and fauna.
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