Latino leaders call for the protection of some 627,000 acres
Latino leaders call for the protection of some 627,000 acres in Southern California's Chuckwalla Valley. Wikimedia Commons

Latino leaders joined Native American tribes and environmentalists in calling for the designation of some 627,000 acres (253,740 hectares) in Southern California's Chuckwalla Valley as a national monument.

California leaders supporting the petition met with President Joe Biden's administration and members of Congress in Washington this week to make the case for the initiative, according to a press release cited by EFE.

They say the effort is to preserve these lands because of their sacred meaning to Native Americans and the unique wildlife they contain, including the American badger, bighorn sheep, Chuckwalla lizard and desert tortoise.

"We are very excited because this week we have the opportunity to participate in meetings with members of Congress and administration officials to discuss the wonderful lands of Chuckwalla and all their cultural and biological legacy," said Sendy Hernández Orellana Barrows, conservation program manager at the Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM).

Jazzari Taylor, a policy advocate with Latino Outdoors, outlined the critical value of conveying to Washington leaders the "strong local support" for declaring these lands a national monument. "We are here in D.C. to highlight the value of this beautiful and sacred natural area," Taylor said.

The Biden administration granted two similar requests from environmental activists, Native American and Latino leaders in May to designate national monuments in California.

The lands were the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument near Los Angeles and the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in Sacramento, Northern California, which were added to Molok Luyuk, which translates to "Condor Ridge."

Joe Biden
In May, the Biden administration approved two similar applications to protect land in Los Angeles and California. AFP

Tribal and environmental leaders in Washington this week called on the Biden administration to designate five monuments this year, adding 400,000 acres of federal land.

The meeting in Washington follows an earlier community meeting hosted by the Department of the Interior on June 14, where participants presented their case for the initiative to designate the area as a national monument.

"Establishing the Chuckwalla National Monument across California's vast desert landscape would help us fight the climate crisis, protect critical wildlife corridors, preserve sacred tribal sites, and improve equitable access to nature for our local communities," said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA.).

The proposed Chuckwalla National Monument includes approximately 627,000 acres of public lands. It is located south of Joshua Tree National Park and reaches from the Coachella Valley region in the west to near the Colorado River in the East. This effort is also proposing to protect approximately 17,000 acres of public lands in the Eagle Mountains that are adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.

"For thousands of years, the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians have called the lands in the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument home," said Chairman Thomas Tortez, Jr. of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians.

"The area contains thousands of cultural places and objects of vital importance to the history and identity of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians. We strongly support the designation of the Chuckwalla National Monument and thank the Department of the Interior for hosting a community meeting and hearing our perspective."

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