Backers of CA National Monuments Converge on D.C. to Push for Protections

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in Northern California is one of seven under federal review in the Golden State. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Defenders of California’s national monuments are part of a larger group of public lands advocates converging on Washington, D.C. this week to fend off policymakers who would shrink the monuments.

In late April, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to review many of the monuments, and favor the “smallest area compatible with the proper management.” Tom O’Key, owner and operator of the Joshua Tree chapter of the International Dark Skies Association, is part of the delegation. He said monuments like Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow in the southern California desert are critical for allowing people to escape light pollution.

“If you want to come and see the Milky Way, if you want to see a starry night sky, there’s very few places in the southwestern United States that you can still experience what’s left of our night sky,” O’Key said.

A study by Headwaters Economics quantified the ways national monuments benefit their local economies. For example, in the four years after the Carrizo Plain National Monument was designated in 2001, jobs in the surrounding communities increased by 28 percent and real personal income went up by 55 percent. Economic indicators rose for all 17 monuments in the research.

O’Key said the Joshua Tree area has prospered as well, because of – not in spite of – the nearby wild places that preserve the area’s allure.

“This is our last go-round,” he said. “If this generation now does not stand and defend these lands, then it will be lost forever. That once you bring in development, light is a requirement, and they will remove our ability to see the cosmos.”

The other California sites under federal review include the Greater Sequoia, Cascade Siskiyou, San Gabriel Mountains and Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monuments.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.