Petroglyphs on the rocks surrounding the palm-fringed oases in California's proposed Chuckwalla National Monument attest that the area has been a special place to the ancestors of the local Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Mohave, Quechan, and Serrano peoples for some 10,000 years. At the junction of the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado Deserts, the region also holds an astonishing biodiversity, home to bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, American badgers, golden eagles, desert pupfish and a host of other rare and endangered animals. This is clearly land worth protecting.
The proposed Chuckwalla National Monument (and an expansion of the adjacent Joshua Tree National Park) would encompass some 660,000 acres of public land in the California desert. A national monument designation would increase badly-needed access to nature for residents of the Eastern Coachella and Imperial Valleys, as well stimulate the economies of local communities as outdoor enthusiasts come to the area for hiking, picnicking, stargazing and recreational off-highway vehicle opportunities.
Audubon is part of a coalition of more than a dozen environmental organizations and community partners aiming to conserve these stunningly beautiful desert landscapes, backing proposed legislation to set aside some 700,000 acres of palm oases, rocky mountain ranges, and lush desert woodlands in Imperial and Riverside Counties. The proposed protected area – Chuckwalla National Monument, named for a resident potbellied, oversized lizard -- fits within the goals of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), an agreement between various California and federal agencies which identifies areas suitable for renewable energy development, as well as lands worthy of protection.
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