Establishing New and Expanded National Monuments in SoCal

CalWild - Mecca Hills
Photo: Evan Dudley
Establishing New and Expanded National Monuments in SoCal

The proposal to designate the Chuckwalla National Monument and expand Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) is focused on nearly 700,000 acres of land that is culturally and historically significant to the Iviatim, Nüwü, Pipa Aha Macav, Kwatsáan, and Maara’yam peoples. Protecting this land will increase equitable access to nearby communities and protect recreational opportunities like hiking, climbing, OHV use, and more. The landscape is home to a rich array of biodiversity including the chuckwalla lizard, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and many other birds and plants. The protected areas would link current “islands” of protected lands, increasing connectivity and ecosystem impacts.

A 195,000-acre portion of the Angeles National Forest (ANF), to the northwest of the San Gabriels, is the Sierra Pelona Mountains near the community of Santa Clarita. It is the only portion of the ANF not covered by a national monument or proposed monument. This landscape has immense biodiversity and cultural significance. This rugged area is characterized by abrupt landscapes and towering peaks. It features stately chaparral, ridgelines, and red rock-studded canyons, including Fish Canyon and its narrows. Fish Canyon and other remote swathes of the proposed NM provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and adventure not far from Santa Clara and L.A.

This past summer, Representative Dr. Raul Ruiz embraced the proposal for Chuckwalla and the JTNP expansion as his own and introduced legislation to enact them while calling on President Biden to designate the areas under the Antiquities Act. Several local elected officials, tribal representatives, and California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, Wade Crowfoot, spoke in support of the proposal. Five of the 13 Tribes affiliated with these lands have provided public support, and coalition partners are engaging with others. The Coalition is now working to deal with any opposition from stakeholders who are concerned that their activities may be curtailed or eliminated after designation. Once designation occurs in this landscape, CalWild will pivot to organizing in support of a new national monument in the ANF.