Monday, 15 July 2024

Veterans call on Biden Administration to designate national monuments in California

Vet Voice Foundation, or VVF, has released a new report highlighting the importance of national monuments and public lands to military and veteran communities in California.

The report features veterans across the state urging the Biden Administration to designate or expand five national monuments.

“California’s national monuments and other public lands have long provided service members and veterans with necessary refuge and respite from the demands of military service,” said Janessa Goldbeck, CEO of Vet Voice Foundation and a Marine Corps veteran. “These lands are places of reflection, reunion, and healing for millions of veterans throughout the country. They also protect cultural resources, including military heritage sites, and important habitat, and help ensure access to nature for all communities, particularly those that lack parks or other green spaces close to home.”

With more than 30 military installations, California is home to 1.8 million veterans, 157,639 active duty military personnel, and 55,537 reservists and National Guard members — more than any other state in the nation.

Earlier this month, Goldbeck traveled throughout the state meeting with local veterans at several of the proposed national monument locations and hearing why they want the President to permanently protect these places.

“Together with veterans from around our state, I urged President Biden to protect these special places — from tribal lands in Northern California to the majestic San Gabriel Mountains above LA to World War II training sites in the California Desert,” continued Goldbeck. “We see protecting these places as an extension of our service to this country and the duty of anyone who thinks of themselves as a patriot. We urge President Biden to designate national monuments in our state.”

Currently, President Biden is on track to protect more public land than any other modern first-term president in history.

Vet Voice Foundation is urging President Biden to look to California next and expand and designate these national monuments via the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act of 1906 is a law that grants the president the ability to designate federal public lands, waters, and cultural and historical sites as national monuments with a Presidential Proclamation.

The locations featured in Vet Voice Foundation’s report include the following:

Expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

The expansion of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument would increase equitable access to nature, protect critical wildlife habitat, and conserve an important water source for Los Angeles. Over 18 million people live within a 90-mile radius of these public lands and the proposed expansion area is considered the “gateway” to the Angeles National Forest. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the national forest received 4.6 million visitors in 2021 — more than the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park received in the same year. In addition to advocating for the monument's expansion, local veterans and advocates are also highlighting the urgent need for increased resources for the region to ensure sustainable recreation.

Expansion of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument (Molok Luyuk)

Stretching from Napa County in the south to Mendocino County in the north, Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is located about an hour away from Travis Air Force Base, providing opportunities for the thousands of people who live and work on the base to relax and recreate outdoors. The proposed expansion of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument would add 13,753 acres of public lands to the existing monument. These lands are of tremendous present-day cultural and religious importance to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and include sites central to their origin stories. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has called for the expansion of the monument and a return to the Indigenous name (Molok Luyuk) for these lands.

Chuckwalla National Monument

The proposed Chuckwalla National Monument would protect approximately 660,000 acres of federal public lands in Riverside and Imperial Counties. The proposed monument would help preserve the California Desert’s rich history, including World War II training sites where General Patton trained military units for desert warfare. Moreover, analysis shows that desert conservation is critical to support ongoing modern-day missions from five major military bases - Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Edwards Air Force Base, Fort Irwin National Training Center, and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

Medicine Lake Highlands (Sáttítla)

The Pit River Tribe is calling on President Biden to protect ancestral homelands and spiritual sites in an area known as Sáttítla, within the Medicine Lake Highlands area of northern California. This 200,000-acre area is located in northeastern California, just 30 miles from Mount Shasta. For thousands of years, the forested lands and clear blue water have been sacred to numerous Tribes including the Pit River, Modoc, Shasta, Karuk, and Wintu. Sáttítla and the Medicine Lake Highlands are a spiritual center. Tribes continue to use the area for religious activities, ceremonies, and gatherings.

Kw'tsán National Monument

The Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe is leading an effort to establish the Kw'tsán National Monument, calling on President Biden to protect more than 390,000 acres of the Tribe’s ancestral homelands located in Imperial County, California. The proposed boundary incorporates the Indian Pass Area, Pilot Knob, Singer Geoglyphs, Buzzards Peak, and Picacho Peak Wilderness areas. These lands contain incredible cultural, ecological, recreational, scenic, and historic values that the tribe is asking to be preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

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