Acquisitions bolster Sand to Snow National Monument, wildlife crossing hopes

For immediate release

August 11, 2021
Contact: Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications
Phone: 760-820-2275
Email: jessica@mdlt.org

Acquisitions bolster Sand to Snow National Monument, wildlife crossing hopes

Morongo Valley – The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) has acquired a 43-acre parcel within Sand to Snow National Monument. The parcel’s proximity to Highway 62 gives further impetus to future plans for wildlife crossings over this treacherous road.

On August 1, 2021, a bighorn sheep was killed trying to cross the highway in Morongo Valley. In July, residents reported a bear being hit by a car after climbing the concrete meridian. In 2018, a mountain lion was killed at the Yucca Grade area of the highway. Community members in Morongo Valley recently erected road signs on the highway reminding motorists to slow down.

MDLT owns land directly bordering both sides of the highway in Morongo Valley and has been working closely with the California Department of Transportation and other agencies to explore options for future possible crossings in the area. To create the wildlife crossings, Caltrans would construct highway overpasses with fencing along the roadway to direct animals to safe passage.

The new acquisition of 43 acres lies within the national monument (see map) and is in close proximity to MDLT’s highway-fronting lands. Its northern boundary is at an elevation of 3,238 feet on the southeast facing mountain front.

Sand to Snow National Monument protects one of the most biologically diverse areas in Southern California. It spans a wide range of ecosystems including lowland Mojave and Colorado Deserts, riparian forests, creosote bush scrub and woodlands, freshwater marshes, and alpine conifer forests. A number of important springs and seeps support the area’s biodiversity.

Twelve federally listed threatened and endangered animal species are found here. Larger mammals in the area include bighorn sheep, mountain lion, mule deer, and American black bear. The San Gorgonio Wilderness has some of the highest quality black bear habitat in Southern California.

Sand to Snow National Monument was designated by President Barack Obama in 2016. In establishing the monument, the President aimed to “permanently protect key wildlife corridors and provide plants and animals with the space and elevation range that they will need in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change”.

MDLT actively acquires land within wildlife corridors to connect protected areas, which in turn helps maintain healthy wildlife populations. To date, MDLT has acquired 7,338 acres within the Morongo Basin habitat linkages between Joshua Tree National Park, Sand to Snow National Monument, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms.

MDLT has acquired a total of 4,585 acres within Sand to Snow National Monument, of which 2,826 acres have been conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management. In land preservation, MDLT serves as an intermediary, purchasing privately-owned parcels from willing sellers and later conveying land to federal partners through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“Sand to Snow National Monument is one of our priority acquisition areas. We are pleased that this latest acquisition will help bolster one of most biologically diverse mountain ranges in California. We are working closely with Caltrans and other agencies to explore options for possible wildlife crossings in the area. The acquisition of land on both sides of Highway 62 has made that dream one step closer to becoming a reality. The recent loss of a bighorn sheep in a traffic collision is a tragedy and one we dearly hope can be prevented in future”, said Geary Hund, Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust.

MDLT recently surpassed a milestone of 100,000 acres conserved across the California desert. It will mark its 15th anniversary on August 17, 2021.

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic, and cultural value within the Mojave Desert. Since its founding in 2006 the land trust has conserved 101,528 acres, conveying more tracts of land to the National Park Service in the last decade than any other organization. In addition to acquiring land, the land trust established a seed bank to ensure the preservation of native species. MDLT operates an onsite nursery at its Joshua Tree headquarters which propagates native species for ecosystem restoration. MDLT educates and advocates for the conservation of the desert, involving hundreds of volunteers in our work. For more information, visit mdlt.org.

Note to editors:
Map and photos are available here.

To see the 100,000 acres protected by MDLT, visit our storymap.

For a tour of MDLT properties, please contact Jessica Dacey on 760-820-2275