Biden is creating new national monuments in Nevada and Texas The designation preserves Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas from new development. President Biden is also starting the process for a vast new marine sanctuary southwest of Hawaii.

Biden is creating new national monuments to protect land in Nevada and Texas

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President Biden is creating two new national monuments today. His declarations would protect two spots - one in Nevada, one in Texas - from major development while also keeping them open for recreation. NPR's Ximena Bustillo is covering the story. Good morning.


INSKEEP: Glad you're in our studios here, Studio 31 in Washington, D.C. So what are these places?

BUSTILLO: Well, first, Nevada's Avi Kwa Ame is also called the Spirit Mountain. That's derived from the Mojave language. And it's a massive area, over 450,000 acres located in southern Nevada. And it has one of the largest Joshua tree forests. It's a desert. And I haven't been there, but I've seen a lot of pictures on social media, and it seems really beautiful.

INSKEEP: Oh, I've just been Googling it myself. This is amazing. You see these wide landscapes. You see craggy mountains. You do see those Joshua trees and other desert plants - really beautiful.

BUSTILLO: Yeah, plenty of vegetation. It's a rocky area that's home to plenty of wildlife like desert bighorn sheep, the desert tortoise and really big lizards. But a really important thing is that it's also a location for a lot of historical artifacts, and it is the location of the origin stories for about a dozen tribal groups.

INSKEEP: Oh, cool.

BUSTILLO: Yeah. So that's why the president hinted at the designation during Tribal Nations Summit a few months ago.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: When it comes to Spirit Mountain and its surrounding ridges and canyons in southern Nevada, I'm committed to protecting this sacred place that is central to the creation story of so many tribes that are here today.


BUSTILLO: So today, he is going to make it official at the conservation Summit at the Interior Department.

INSKEEP: OK, so that's one designation he's making out in Nevada. What's the other?

BUSTILLO: The second is a place called Castner Range, and it's located next to El Paso in Texas. And it's a part of Fort Bliss. And until the 1960s, it was an actual firing range.


BUSTILLO: These days, it's really known for its carpet of yellow poppies that you can see rolling through the hills. It's probably my favorite of the two personally just because of that.

INSKEEP: I'm now looking at pictures of this, and this - just the yellow. It's just amazing, the yellow in that otherwise desert-y (ph) kind of landscape.

BUSTILLO: Yeah. And so people want to use it for hiking and camping and other outdoor recreation. There's also, however, a lot of unexploded ammunition still remaining from the early 1900s.

INSKEEP: Do not go for an unsupervised walk out there, I suppose.

BUSTILLO: No matter how pretty the poppies are. The Army is currently conducting a study on how feasible it could be to clean it.

INSKEEP: So how do these two designations that are coming today fit with Biden's overall record on conservation?

BUSTILLO: Some climate advocates have criticized the president because he recently approved an oil drilling project up in Alaska. But, you know, these projects have also been in the works for some time. And community groups in both states, Nevada and Texas, have been asking for the president to designate these sites. So this isn't necessarily new. Biden came into office pledging to make more of these national monuments. And the first one that he announced was actually in Colorado back in October.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ximena Bustillo, I feel like I got a little tour of the country in the last few minutes. Thanks so much.

BUSTILLO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Glad you came by.

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