WASHINGTON, DC – Latinos are celebrating the announcement that President Barack Obama will sign proclamations this week establishing three new national monuments in the California desert – Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. Latinos account for nearly half of the population throughout the California desert region and value that the new monuments will protect the cultural heritage, economic viability and natural resources of the region for future generations.
“Thanks to President Obama’s actions and the tireless efforts of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California desert’s wildlife habitat, cultural treasures and public lands are protected and preserved for future generations. The President’s actions help us fulfill our moral responsibility to care for our desert land, water, and wildlife,” said Pastor Frank Ruiz of the Indio Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Coachella Valley and co-founder of Por La Creación Faith-based Alliance.
This effort to protect the California desert has strong local support from a diverse coalition of community leaders, organizations, and constituents. Latinos throughout the region have been active in the coalition by educating their communities about protecting this region. In the past two years, members of Por la Creación, which unites Latino faith leaders to develop stewards of God’s creation, have led hikes, events and camping trips for Latino community leaders, youth and families at Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, San Jacinto Mountains, The Living Desert and Amboy Crater.
Additionally, Latino faith leaders and youth from the Coachella Valley and High Desert region attended Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s public meeting last October with the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture to express their support for national monument designations. Then in December, 100 Latino faith leaders from Assemblies of God Southern Pacific District jointly signed a letter to President Obama urging him to take action.
“Latinos have such an important voice in the protection of our public lands, and a critical role to play in encouraging stewardship of our outdoor and cultural heritage,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF). “Today’s historic action not only ensures continued public access to these places and enhances the local tourism and outdoor economies, but it also strengthens the diverse social fabric of the region.”
Each of the new national monuments will greatly benefit the region. Mojave Trails provides vital habitat for a variety of wildlife. It is also steeped in historical significance as it includes irreplaceable archeological and cultural sites. Sand to Snow features one of the most diverse habitats in the country, which includes stunning cultural sites and rare species. The Castle Mountains feature the ghost town of Hart, rare intact desert grasslands, and stunning vistas of California and Nevada desert mountain ranges.
“Protecting the California desert is crucial not only to the majority of local economies in the area, but also to the spiritual well-being of our community,” said Pastor Raul Velázquez of New Beginnings Christian Center in Victorville and a Por La Creación member. “We thank President Obama for designating these new monuments and his faith in preserving these resources for future generations, as well as Sen. Feinstein for her years of leadership on this issue and for understanding why protecting the California desert is important to the Latino community.”