WASHINGTON – President Biden vowed Wednesday to protect the Spirit Mountain region in southern Nevada, which includes some of the most diverse landscapes and cultures in the Mojave Desert.
“I am committed to protecting this sacred place that lives in the story of the creation of many peoples here today,” said Mr. Biden to a gathering of Native American leaders at the White House’s public gathering in Washington. “I thank so many of you who led the fight to protect it.”
“There is much work to be done to protect the lands owned by the people,” said Mr. Biden said.
But the president stopped short of designating the federal land as a national monument, something Maori people, environmental groups, local leaders and governments have been seeking for more than a decade. . Doing so marks the nation’s largest monument designed by Mr. Biden, but he could also get some of the most profitable land in Nevada out to wind and solar projects.
About 33,000 acres of the area, known as the Mojave Avi Kwa Ame, are already protected under the Wildlife Act of 1964. Conservationists want to expand those protections to 450,000 acres and build a national monument and block the area from industrialization.
The designation as a national monument creates a trail that connects many protected areas, from Mojave National Preserve and Castle Mountains National Monument in California to Sloan Canyon and Lake Mead national recreation areas in Nevada and Arizona.
The Biden Administration’s Environmental Policy
It provides a migration route for bighorn sheep and mule deer and protects critical habitat for desert tortoises, bald eagles, peregrine owls, western owls and the local Gila monster. . Twenty-eight species of native grasses, some rare, also grow there, including some of the oldest and largest Joshua trees in America.
Turning the acreage into a national landmark will benefit hunters and wildlife, Russell Kuhlman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. He said the new protections allow game organizations to build and maintain systems to catch and store water for game animals “which is critical to their survival.”
Mr. Biden passed the 1906 Antiquities Act to create a national monument at Camp Hale, Colo., and restore three monuments that were largely downgraded by President Donald J. Trump: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante .
But on Wednesday, he didn’t exactly promise to use the law to protect the state in southern Nevada.
Many environmental activists said they hoped Mr. Biden made the announcement Wednesday and it’s not clear why his speech was so brief. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The creation of a national monument could encourage renewable energy companies seeking to develop one of the country’s best regions for wind and solar power, while Mr. . .
The area includes a 5,600-foot peak north of Laughlin, Nev., which is the ancestral home of the Fort Mojave Indian tribe and holds significant significance for other tribes in the area.
The people of Fort Mojave have been working to protect the area for more than three decades. In February, Representative Dina Titus, Democrat of Nevada, introduced a resolution to designate Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument.
“Avi Kwa Ame’s story is one of patience and passion,” Titus said in a statement, hoping to preserve “these steep bajadas, beautiful canyons, and ancient cultural sites to live on.” future generations.”
Deb Haaland, the interior secretary, and Tracy Stone-Manning, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, visited the area this year to host roundtables and community events about protecting the area. .
“Avi Kwa Ame has great spirit and historical importance to the Maori people who have ruled these lands since ancient times,” said Ms. Haaland, who is also the first Native American cabinet secretary, in a statement. “I am pleased that President Biden is committed to protecting this sacred site.”
A spokesperson for Ms. Titus the council expects Mr. Biden at a national award.
There is currently no wind or solar development in the proposed monument area, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior, who said most of the land is excluded from underground energy development. in the government’s protection degree.
One application is pending for a 700-megawatt solar project on a portion of land designated as a conservation easement, according to an Interior spokeswoman.
And a California-based solar company, Avantus, sought access to a piece of land that could be included in the Spirit Mountain monument so that transmission lines and access roads from the power plant could be used. coal shut down in Laughlin.
The company insists that its access to the land will not harm the monument in the future.
“Avantus supports the creation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, an important step toward protecting Nevada’s rich cultural heritage and honoring the state’s many Native American communities,” said Frank DeRosa, vice president of Public Affairs at Avantus. “A very small portion of federal land, about 2,000 acres of the proposed 450,000 acres Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, less than 0.5 percent, crosses the proposed monument area at its southern end .”
Outside of national monument areas, the state has designated 9 million acres of public lands in Nevada for solar development and approximately 16.8 million acres of public lands for gas development.