President Barack Obama directed the federal government to gobble up more land on Friday by designating three new national monuments in the sun-scorched California desert.
The White House classified three new national monuments — Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument and Castle Mountains National Monument — all of them located in vast, untouched sections of the California desert.
The designations were made under the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law enacted to etch out land for protection from people who would damage or use it for their own purposes.
The designations, according to the White House website, wrangle nearly 1.8 million acres of desert sand underneath the yoke of federal rule — that’s nearly double the number of acres the Obama administration has previously anointed for protection.
“Our country is home to some of the most beautiful God-given landscapes in the world. We’re blessed with natural treasures – from the Grand Tetons to the Grand Canyon; from lush forests and vast deserts to lakes and rivers teeming with wildlife,” Obama said in a 2015 radio address, referring to the importance of federal conservation efforts.
He added: “And it’s our responsibility to protect these treasures for future generations, just as previous generations protected them for us.”
The Mojave Trails National Monument, the White House website notes, spans more than 1.6 million acres, and contains a “stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes.”
The area is also known as a hub for ecological research on the effects of global warming and land management, leading to the possibility that the land was etched out for purposes other than its pristine beauty.
The other two monuments — Sand to Snow Monument and the Castle Mountain Monument — encompass nearly 200,000 acres between the two of them, which is one-third the amount of the Mojave Trails Monument. The two newly named monuments teem with animals and creatures listed on the endangered species list.
The president’s move to lasso more land for federal government use is not sitting well with Obama’s critics, especially those who believe the federal government controls too much land already.
“This is presidential bullying. The intent of the Antiquities Act is not to act as the President’s magic wand to commandeer land,” Republican Rep. [crscore]Rob Bishop[/crscore], who also chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in a statement issued to the press.
He added: “In order to be good stewards of our environment, we need to allow people to have a say in how they recreate and conserve their land. This doesn’t. It’s an authoritarian act that ignores people under the guise of preservation. The land will not be better protected and people will be harmed.”
The federal government controls 28 percent of land across the country, which amounts to 654 million acres.
And in Oregon and Nevada, where ranchers have rabble-roused and campaigned to have the federal government transfer land to the states, the fed controls 53 percent and 85 percent of land, respectively.
The recent occupations of a wildlife refuge in Oregon by ranchers protesting federal land control prompted Republican presidential candidate Sen. [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] to speak to the Des Moines Iowa Register.
“I most certainly believe that the federal government controls far too much land in the Western parts of the United States especially,” Rubio said in January. “The state of Nevada is an example — it’s almost entirely owned by the federal government. And it goes well beyond the legitimate need of land ownership for defense purposes, for example.”
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