Some of California‘s most dramatic landscapes have been protected under the Antiquities Act, which turns 115 years old this month.
Many of the newer monuments came under scrutiny during the Trump administration, which proposed shrinking several of them to make way for commercial projects. At Carrizo Plain National Monument along the central coast, advocates beat back an attempt to allow development and oil drilling.
So Steph Wald – secretary of the board for the Carrizo Conservancy – wants Congress to strengthen the law, so that monuments can no longer be carved up.
“It’s so critical,” says Wald. “We saw in the last administration how precarious the situation was. And we can strengthen it so that it’s not willy-nilly on the chopping block for an administration that might not have the same values as the current administration.”
Since the year 2000, presidents have created eleven new monuments in the Golden State – including Berryessa Snow, California Coastal, Castle Mountains, Carrizo Plain, Cascade-Siskiyou, Cesar Chavez, Fort Ord, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, San Gabriel Mountains, and Sand to Snow National Monuments.
Vanessa Moreno is the Coachella program coordinator for the Council of Mexican Federations in North America. She said her organization often coordinates tours of the Sand to Snow National Monument for families from the low-income immigrant communities just east of Palm Springs.
“Being able to visit our national monuments and disconnect a little bit from that life, and be able to breathe in that fresh air,” said Moreno, “it’s just such a special relationship that communities make with these spaces.”
Some of California’s oldest sites preserved under the Antiquities Act include Muir Woods, the Devil’s Postpile, Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park, all designated between 1906 and 1936.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.