- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2016

President Obama has designated three more national monuments totaling about 1.8 million acres of Southern California desert, nearly doubling the amount of public land that he has given the status with the stroke of his pen since taking office.

The president named three regions as national monuments: Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains (both in the Mojave Desert) and Sand to Snow in the Sonoran Desert.

“In addition to permanently protecting incredible natural resources, wildlife habitat and unique historic and cultural sites, and providing recreational opportunities for a burgeoning region, the monuments will support climate resiliency in the region,” the White House said in a statement Friday.

Mr. Obama has now set aside 265 million acres for limits on usage, more than any other president.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, Utah Republican, said the designations under the federal Antiquities Act amount to “presidential bullying.”

“The intent of the Antiquities Act is not to act as the president’s magic wand to commandeer land,” Mr. Bishop said in a statement. “In order to be good stewards of our environment, we need to allow people to have a say in how they re-create 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 White House said the moves follow “decades of local input and leadership from Senator Dianne Feinstein” and will “enhance the region’s economic activity by attracting visitors, increasing tourism, and ensuring public access for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and other outdoor recreation activities for generations to come.”

The president is in California for Democratic fundraising and to host a summit beginning Monday.

After making the designations Friday, the president flew from Los Angeles to Palm Springs for a weekend of golf on some of the state’s biggest water-guzzling courses. He held Democratic Party fundraisers Thursday.

The Mojave Trails National Monument, at 1.6 million acres, is the largest of the new areas.

Ms. Feinstein, California Democrat, said she has been working on legislation for six years to accomplish what the president is ordering.

“My staff and I have spent hundreds of hours working with the diverse range of stakeholders — local and state government officials, environmental groups, off-highway recreation groups, cattle ranchers, mining interests, the Department of Defense, wind and solar energy companies, the public utility companies and many others,” she said.

“All of them were at the table as we strived to achieve consensus. That bill has not yet passed, so the president’s declaration is all important to carry out the protection needed,” she said.

Nancy Pfund, co-chairwoman of the Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition, a new advocacy group of CEOs and investors, said the monuments will help California’s entrepreneurial companies recruit workers.

“Access to first-class, inspiring, outdoor recreational opportunities is extremely important to these target employees,” she said. “Outdoor recreation also helps inspire, recharge and refocus the people who already drive success in our companies, and fuels teamwork and innovation.”

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