Desert Businesses Work to Protect SoCal National Monuments

Billboards like this one are popping up across the Inland Empire to build support for California's desert monuments against any federal attempt to shrink them. Photo Credit: 29 Palms Inn

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – Business supporters of California’s national monuments say they’re worried they may be next after President Donald Trump downsized two national monuments this week in Utah.

The business community near Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains National Monuments is declaring support for these protected areas with three billboards and a series of banners across the Inland Empire.

Breanne Dusastre, director of marketing for the 29 Palms Inn, says Trump’s moves to cut the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments show he’s unconcerned with the effect on local communities.

“While Sand to Snow has been mentioned as being off the review list,” she says, “until the same happens for Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains, given the actions that the administration has taken, there’s certainly concern for the future of our monuments.”

She adds that since President Barack Obama created the three desert monuments in February 2016, they’ve seen a major influx of tourism. Joshua Tree National Park is breaking attendance records, and many are exploring the nearby national monuments year-round, even in the summer. Mojave Trails was one of 27 national monuments under review by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but it was not mentioned in his final report released on Tuesday.

Jerry Mattos chair of the Joshua Tree Gateway Tourism Committee says people are drawn to the Mojave Desert, as one of the last great open spaces left in the West.

“We out in the desert don’t have a lot of industries around, and we would like tourism to become our main industry here,” he says. “So, it’s very important.”

Tribes, businesses and conservation groups are suing the administration, claiming the Antiquities Act gives the president the right to create national monuments, but not to shrink them.

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