Protect California Deserts

Momentum is building to create a new national monument in the California desert!

A scenic view within the boundary of the proposed national monument in Eastern Riverside County. Photo: Joelle Hazher

Together with our conservation partners, we are working to preserve this region by establishing a new national monument, expanding wilderness areas, and designating a new wild and scenic river. The public lands legislative proposal is being organized to honor and recognize the Indigenous cultural histories of the Iviatim, Kwatsáan, Maarrenga’yam, Nüwü, Pipa Aha Macav (the Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Mojave, Quechan, & Serrano) peoples; increase access to world-class nature for local residents and visitors; protect fragile desert wildlife and facilitate habitat connectivity; and help boost local economies. The California deserts are important habitat for an incredible number of imperiled and rare species, and almost the entirety of the proposed monument is critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.

The Protect California Deserts campaign aims to accomplish the following:

  • Establish a new national monument in the Chuckwalla Valley that will border the southern edge of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Honor the homelands of the Iviatim, Kwatsáan, Maarrenga’yam, Nüwü, Pipa Aha Macav (the Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Mojave, Quechan, & Serrano) peoples.
  • Designate two new wilderness areas and expand three existing wilderness areas.
  • Designate the San Bernardino County portion of Mission Creek as a wild and scenic river.
  • Expand Joshua Tree National Park eastward into the Eagle Mountain Area.
  • Honor the work of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong and the United Farm Workers in Riverside County.
  • Protect World War II-era training sites.
  • Call for a recreational needs study to be completed by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, focusing on quiet recreation opportunities in the Mecca Hills/Orocopia Mountains Area.

California’s deserts span over 26 million acres and are like nowhere else on Earth. The deserts of Riverside and Imperial Counties include palm oases, rocky mountain ranges, and lush desert woodlands that host unique plants such as the Chuckwalla Cholla cactus and threatened animals such as the desert tortoise and flat-tailed horned lizard. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selected the lands in the proposed national monument as a re-introduction site for the iconic and critically endangered Sonoran pronghorn.

These public lands offer world-renowned recreation opportunities and are essential to enhancing equitable outdoor access for local communities. They are the ancestral homelands of many Tribes since time immemorial. The region also contains important historical values, and tourism in the area helps contribute to a sustainable economic engine for nearby communities.

In the coming months we look forward to sharing more details about this campaign. For more information, email [email protected]