On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden established two new national monuments in the states of Nevada and Texas and began a discussion about potentially extending protections to all waters surrounding the far-flung Pacific islands southwest of Hawaii.
The initiatives were unveiled during a White House summit on environmental protection and are meant to fulfill Vice President Biden’s pledge to protect at least 30% of federal lands and streams by 2030.
The heart and soul of our national pride are being safeguarded, according to Biden.
The two national monuments will conserve 514,000 acres (208,008 hectares) of public land. They include Avi Kwa Ame, the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain, in southern Nevada. The site is sacred to tribes including the Paiute and Chemehuevi, and provides habitat for species such as desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and a Joshua tree forest.
The other new national monument is Castner Range in El Paso, Texas. It is a former training and testing location for the U.S. Army and has more than 40 known archeological sites with pottery remnants, petroglyghs and living structures.
The location is rich in desert species including spring blooms of the Mexican poppy and provides habitat for wildlife like the golden eagle, Texas horned lizard and western burrowing owl. The designation will provide communities that have historically had less access to public lands with opportunities to experience nature and explore, the White House said.
Biden directed Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to consider initiating a new marine sanctuary designation for all U.S. waters around the Pacific Remote Islands.
The designation would expand on the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument established by President George W. Bush in 2009 and expanded by President Barack Obama in 2014.
Biden also issued a directive to begin a process to consider renaming the monument and islands to honor the area’s native heritage and recognize the native Hawaiians who secured U.S. territorial claim to the islands.