Biden Pledges to Protect Nevada’s Spirit Mountain

WASHINGTON—President Biden pledged Wednesday to protect the Spirit Mountain region of southern Nevada, which contains some of the most biologically diverse and culturally significant lands in the Mojave Desert.

At a gathering of indigenous leaders at the White House Tribal Nation Summit in Washington, Mr. Biden said, “I believe this sacred place is central to the creation stories of so many tribes here today. We promise to protect it.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to protect our tribal lands,” Biden said.

However, the president did not go so far as to designate federal land as a national monument. This is what indigenous peoples, environmental groups, local and state leaders have been asking for over his decade. Doing so would be the largest national monument created by Biden, but could also exclude some of Nevada’s most productive land from wind and solar projects. .

About 33,000 acres in this area, also known by its Mojave name Abi Kwa Ame, are already protected under the Nature Conservation Act of 1964. Proponents hope to extend these protections to cover his 450,000 acres and create a national monument that isolates the area from industrial activity.

Designation as a national monument creates a corridor connecting multiple protected areas, from Mojave National Conservation Area and Castle Mountains National Monument in California to Sloane Canyon and Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona. increase.

This ensures migration routes for desert bighorn sheep and mule deer, and protects critical habitat for desert turtles, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, great gray owls and the endemic Gila monster. It is home to 28 native species of grass, some rare, and some of the oldest and largest Joshua Trees in America.

Russell Kuhlman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that transforming this land into a national monument could benefit hunters as well as animals and plants. It said the new protection would allow sports organizations to build and maintain systems to capture and store water for game animals “essential to survival.”

Using the Relics Act of 1906, Mr. Biden created a national monument in Camp Hale, Colorado, and restored three monuments that had been greatly scaled down by President Donald J. Trump. .

But on Wednesday, he didn’t directly commit to using the law to protect southern Nevada’s landscape.

Some environmental activists said they expected Biden to announce the designation on Wednesday but were unsure why his speech fell short. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

With Biden promising to accelerate the country’s transition to clean energy, the construction of a national monument in the area would help it become one of the country’s best places for wind and solar power. It could spur a backlash from renewable energy companies looking to develop locally. .

The area includes a 5,600-foot mountain north of Laughlin, Nevada, which is the ancestral home of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and has significance to other tribes in the area.

The Fort Mojave Tribe has worked for over 30 years to permanently protect this area. Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus introduced a resolution in February to establish Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument.

“The story of Avi Kwa Ame is one of perseverance and passion,” Titus said in a statement, “so that future generations can enjoy these sloping bajadas, scenic canyons and ancient cultural heritage.” I added that I want to protect.

Both Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Director of the Bureau of Land Management Tracy Stone Manning visited the area this year to hold roundtables and community meetings on protecting the area.

“Abi Kwa Ame has deep spiritual and historical significance to the Native peoples who have ruled these lands since time immemorial,” said Harland, who is also the first Native American cabinet secretary. said in a statement. “I am thrilled that President Biden is committed to protecting this sacred place.”

A spokeswoman for Titus said lawmakers expect Biden to formally designate a national monument.

There is currently no wind or solar development within the proposed monument area, and much of the land has been cleared from energy development under a federal protection designation, according to an Interior Ministry spokesperson. said to be excluded.

There is one pending application for a 700-megawatt solar project on a piece of land that may have been designated as an exception to the protected designation, according to a Home Office spokesperson.

Also, California-based solar company Avantus is seeking access to a portion of the land that may be included in the expanded Spirit Mountain Monument, using existing power lines and the Laughlin closure. Provided road access from the coal-fired power plant that was built.

The company claims that access to the land will not harm future monuments.

“Avantas is supporting the creation of Abi Kwa Ame National Monument, an important step in preserving Nevada’s culturally significant lands and respecting the state’s many Indigenous communities,” said Avantas. said Frank DeRosa, vice president of public relations. “A very small portion of national land, about 2,000 acres, less than 0.5% of his proposed 450,000-acre Abiqwaame National Monument, overlaps the southern edge of the proposed monument boundary.”

The federal government will reserve 9 million acres of public land in Nevada for large-scale solar development and approximately 16.8 million acres of public land for potential wind development outside the boundaries of the proposed national monument. identified the ground. Biden Pledges to Protect Nevada’s Spirit Mountain

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