Amboy Crater, © BLM California

Three New National Monuments in our California Desert

New national monuments protect more than 1 million acres of California desert wildlife habitat

I may be biased, but I think that the California desert has some of the most beautiful landscapes. The Mojave Desert boasts incredibly diverse natural resources — stunning springs of underground water; the last intact valley in the West Mojave plant ecosystem, Sleeping Beauty Valley; and The Cady Mountains, one of the best places to see bighorn sheep.

The Castle Mountains are home to a diverse array of desert wildlife — most notably, golden eagles, desert bighorn sheep and the federally listed desert tortoise. The mountains also include some of the most vibrant forests in Southern California, including Joshua tree, pinon pine and juniper forests.

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Castle Mountains National Monument, © David Lamfrom

One of the most breathtaking sights in the desert is Sand to Snow Mountain, the tallest alpine mountain in California. It is aptly named as it literally rises from the desert to snowy peaks.

And it appears Californians like me are not the only ones who appreciate the importance and beauty of these landscapes in our backyard.

Today, President Obama issued a proclamation designating three new national monuments totaling 1.8 million acres in the California desert: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains.

National monument status already provides permanent protection to many beautiful landscapes across our nation. President Theodore Roosevelt designated our first national monument, Devils Tower — a volcanic neck in Wyoming that rises 1,267 feet above its surroundings – in 1906. His foresight to protect our public lands was controversial at the time, but was ultimately visionary. Thanks to him, 110 years later, we now have 120 national monuments, including our three new monuments in the California desert.

The Mojave Trails National Monument will protect wildlife corridors that connect two national parks – The Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park – and 13 wilderness areas, including bighorn sheep and desert tortoise habitat. Protection of such a vital landscape will safeguard its natural wonders, its history and its scenic vistas while also giving people a place to visit for hiking, biking, and all kinds of outdoor fun.

The Sand to Snow National Monument is one of the most botanically diverse mountain ranges in California. The wetlands in the Sand to Snow National Monument provide vital habitats for more than 240 types of migratory birds, such as yellow chat and vermillion flycatchers.

Because of its close proximity to the Mojave National Preserve, the Castle Mountains National Monument offers multiple opportunities for biologists and tourists alike. The newly protected area provides excellent opportunities to study the wildlife movements of the iconic desert bighorn sheep and the threatened desert tortoise. It will also help support the region’s tourism and recreational economies.

Now, when I look out at our beautiful California desert, it is all the more stunning knowing that these places will be protected for our nation’s wildlife as it continues to adapt to a changing climate, and for my children and future generations to enjoy. I know I am not alone in giving my thanks to President Obama, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Senator of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for all of their efforts in granting these iconic California landscapes and important wildlife areas permanent protection by making them into national monuments. What a way to start the year for wildlife and wild places in California!


A stunning mosaic of ecosystems, California is home to millions of wild birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects that need our help. We’re working to ensure a lasting future wildlife in the Golden State.

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12 Responses to “Three New National Monuments in our California Desert”

  1. Jelena Mulin

    It is alway a win when we can get lands protected to stay in their natural state for people to enjoy and explore for years to come. Thank you!! Now I have some new areas to go explore!

  2. Michael Williams

    Yes, I would like to see more of the areas of the California Mojave Desert protected as National Monuments. BLM and similar lands are only minimally protected. I have been concerned my self for some time about the areas that have not been parts of State, County, or National Parks or other Public Lands. I have been to portions of many of the locations referred to in this brief article. I would really like to see maps showing exactly what is proposed to be included. Sounds interesting and important and possible future improved access to many locations would be great, so long as the habitats and species are protected. There are many rare and endangered animals and plants in California and in her Deserts.

  3. Michele Boman

    Please don’t destroy our beautiful monuments.It is there for the wildlife and all of mother nature’s habitants to enjoy. It also focuses on our future. It is hard to take back a mistake esp a horrible one such as destruction of a beautiful natural state when you destroy it. Please reconsider your options carefully. Thank you.

  4. Michele Boman

    Please don’t destrory our beautiful lands to.create more monuments.It is there for the wildlife and all of mother nature’s habitants to enjoy. It also focuses on our future. It is hard to take back a mistake esp a horrible one such as destruction of a beautiful natural state when you destroy it. Please reconsider your options and plan more carefully. Thank you.

    • dean

      my mom says it is not fair to hurt other animals if your not hurting your self.

  5. Ed Weldon

    I’m all for protecting the Mojave desert from the ravages of hordes of off road vehicles and the few among them that bring ignorant and irresponsible humans. But while the ideas of designated wilderness areas sounds great a hike 2-3 miles across the 110 degree desert sand is a whole world different from the same hike through alpine forests that characterize other California wilderness areas. As an old guy with typical physical limits of my age I resent the idea of seeing some of my favorite places fenced off with signs that say, in effect, “this place is reserved for the young athletes; we don’t want your kind here anymore”. And I suspect that the stingy attitude of the Congress with respect to funding proper management of national parks and monuments will result in little more than nasty signs and “wilderness cops” running around handing out citations for illegal entry and activities. And in the end analysis, whole ecosystems in south eastern California are going to disappear whatever we do as a result of the present climate changes. Ed Weldon, Los Gatos, CA

  6. Lois Hamilton

    Having lived in the Mojave Desert, called the “high desert”, I am so happy to see this happening. Thank you for protecting our wildlife habitat❣❣

  7. Denise Main

    Saving and making proper protected areas will help to save our precious wildlife!

  8. Shari Krueger

    Sand to Snow Mountain must be saved. I lived in northern California for 17 years and the whole state is breathtaking.

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