COACHELLA, CALIF. – With news that Sen. Dianne Feinstein requested President Obama to use the office’s authority under the Antiquities Act to designate three new national monuments – Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains – members of Por La Creación: Faith-based Alliance are urging the president to take action and protect the California desert.
“For many of us in Southern California, it can be easy to take our amazing desert lands – much of which is safeguarded for our children and grandchildren – for granted,” said Pastor Frank Ruiz of the Indio Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Coachella Valley and co-founder of Por La Creación. “It won’t always be that way, however, if we don’t take steps to further protect them and foster our Latino youth’s passion and involvement in caring for the outdoors.”
The California desert is facing many threats — proposals to export groundwater from desert aquifers, air pollution, rapid community development and encroachments from renewable energy developments — that risk the future of this region and could have irreversible consequences. Sen. Feinstein has sought greater protections for the desert for several years and in Feb. introduced the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act. The Antiquities Act provides new possibilities, as Congress as yet to act on the legislation.
“As a pastor, I believe that all of the designations made by presidents under the Antiquities Act protect beautiful landscapes and historic sites where we can connect with our past and our faith,” said Pastor Raul Velázquez of New Beginnings Christian Center in Victorville and member of Por La Creación. “President Obama now has the opportunity to protect these special, inspiring places in the desert.”
The Antiquities Act is an important tool to preserve open space, natural treasures and historical sites in the U.S. While it only permits presidents to designate new national monuments from existing public lands, it has been used to create over 130 national monuments and also provided the original protection for Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. Since being established by Congress in June 1906, it has been used by 16 presidents – eight Republicans and eight Democrats.
“I applaud Senator Feinstein’s leadership and respectfully urge the President to act,” said Velázquez. “Without taking further steps to protect the natural resources, cultural heritage, quality of life and economic benefits the California desert provides, future generations will not be able to enjoy it as we do today.”
California members of Por La Creación have been active in educating their communities about protecting the California desert. In just the past two years, members have led hikes 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 and The Living Desert.
“Latinos have an important voice in the protection of our public lands. We have a moral responsibility to future generations to protect God’s creation — preserving the mountains, rivers, deserts and other breathtaking landscapes of our nation,” said Ruiz. “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.”