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Biden to Designate Nat'l Monuments     03/21 06:12


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is establishing national monuments in 
Nevada and Texas and creating a marine sanctuary in U.S. waters near the 
Pacific Remote Islands southwest of Hawaii.

   The Democratic president is set to announce the measures Tuesday at a White 
House summit on conservation action at the Interior Department.

   Biden said in November that he intends to designate Avi Kwa Ame, a desert 
mountain in southern Nevada that's considered sacred to Native Americans, as a 
national monument. The site spans more than 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) 
and includes Spirit Mountain, a peak northwest of Laughlin called Avi Kwa Ame 
(ah-VEE' kwa-meh) by the Fort Mojave Tribe and listed on the National Register 
of Historic Places.

   The rugged landscape near the Arizona and California state lines is home to 
bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and a large concentration of Joshua trees, some 
of which are more than 900 years old.

   In Texas, Biden plans to create the Castner Range National Monument in El 
Paso. The designation will protect the cultural, scientific and historic 
objects found within the monument's boundaries, honor U.S. veterans, service 
members and tribal nations, and expand access to outdoor recreation on public 
lands, the White House said.

   Located on Fort Bliss, Castner Range served as a training and testing site 
for the U.S. Army during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The 
Army ceased training at the site and closed Castner Range in 1966.

   Together, the two new national monuments protect nearly 514,000 acres 
(208,000 hectares) of public lands.

   In the Pacific, Biden will direct the Commerce Department to consider 
initiating a new national marine sanctuary designation within 30 days to 
protect all U.S. waters around the Pacific Remote Islands. If completed, the 
new sanctuary would help ensure the U.S. reaches Biden's goal to conserve at 
least 30% of ocean waters under U.S. jurisdiction by 2030, the White House said.

   Biden also will announce a series of steps to conserve, restore and expand 
access to public lands and waters across the country, the White House said. The 
proposals seek to modernize management of America's public lands, harness the 
power of the ocean to help fight climate change, and better conserve wildlife 
corridors. Biden also will propose new spending to improve access to outdoor 
recreation, promote tribal conservation and reduce wildfire risk.

   Biden's actions come as he faces sharp criticism from environmental groups 
and youth activists over his approval of the huge Willow oil drilling project 
in Alaska.

   Biden has made fighting global warming a central part of his agenda, and 
White House officials have defended efforts to put the United States on track 
to meet Biden's goal to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions in half by 

   But the decision on Willow has alienated supporters, particularly young 
activists skeptical about political compromise at the same time Biden is 
planning to announce his reelection campaign.

   Climate activists are expected to gather outside the Interior Department on 
Tuesday to condemn what they call Biden's "climate hypocrisy" and demand the 
administration change course on Willow.

   The Willow Project has garnered global attention in recent weeks as a 
#stopwillow campaign went viral across social media platforms, most notably 
gaining more than 600 million views on TikTok and amassing more than 4 million 
signatures on a petition, making it one of the most popular 
petitions in the website's history.

   White House officials have acknowledged the indignation among Biden's 
supporters over Willow but emphasized that oil giant ConocoPhillips has held 
leases in that area of Alaska for decades, which strengthens the Houston-based 
company's legal right to drill.

   Environmental groups already have sued in a renewed effort to block Willow.

   "Biden has the authority to revoke the Willow approval, withhold permits for 
further fossil fuel projects and phase out federal fossil fuel production on 
public lands and waters,'' said Cassidy DiPaola, a spokesperson for People Vs. 
Fossil Fuels, a coalition of groups pressing Biden to end oil drilling and 
other fossil fuel projects.

   Democratic Rep. Dina Titus and other Nevada lawmakers have been seeking to 
protect the rugged region near the Mojave National Preserve from development, 
including solar farms and a proposed wind farm.

   "Our creation story places us directly in the center of this area," said 
Shan Lewis, vice chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. "Our efforts are to 
protect these places of significance and sacredness while maintaining their 
integrity as a place of home and worship."

   Biden designated his first national monument, in Colorado, last year. In 
2021, he restored the boundaries for Bears Ears National Monument in Utah after 
they were significantly narrowed by President Donald Trump, a Republican.

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