Biden Monumental Action Designating Sacred Tribal Land as a National Monument
As part of his America the Beautiful Initiative, President Joe Biden declared the Nevada mountain range of Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument on Tuesday(March 21, 2023). Under this project, Biden hopes to set aside at least 30% of the land and water in the United States for preservation by the year 2030. With Tuesday’s declaration, nearly 500,000 acres of land will be shielded from mining or energy development.
Ten Yuman-speaking tribes and other Indigenous peoples hold this mountain, Spirit Mountain, in the highest regard. One of the most extensive Joshua tree forests is located here, providing shelter for animals, including bighorn sheep and the desert tortoise.
You can see Vice President Biden’s tweet stating-
Our country’s natural treasures define our identity as a nation.
They are a birthright we pass down from generation to generation.
Today, I'm announcing steps to protect that birthright: pic.twitter.com/8wCUytpxMb
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 21, 2023
Biden Discussed the Historical and Cultural Significance of the Area
Native Americans applauded enthusiastically as Vice President Biden spoke on the significance of the land to their culture. He said, “It’s a place of reverence. It’s a place of spirituality. It’s a place of healing. “And now we recognize it for the significance it holds and be preserved forever.”
Biden added that this designation is critical because it safeguards the property for future generations of farmers, recreational enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs. “We’re the United States of America,” he said, “and we owe to our children and our grandchildren and our great, great-grandchildren and all to come, what we have and what we can preserve.”
Taylor Patterson, a Bishop Paiute, attended the conference and was pleased to see a project spearheaded by tribal members move forward. Patterson, who is also the executive director of the Native Voters Association of Nevada, said-
“We waited over a hundred days and so it felt like the day was never going to get here. “So it was amazing to see it finally happening… I think it’s just such a turn of events really, and I hope there’s more to come.”
Before its new classification, Spirit Mountain was already on the National Register of Historic Places. The mountain and its surrounding surroundings are secure now. A trade route that spans three states (Utah, Arizona, and California), the Salt Song trail has been safeguarded, according to Patterson, and the Southern Paiute tribe is pleased. “We still had a sort of donut hole … that lacked any formal protection at all,” she said. “So this helps create continuity between all of the protected places and also really just formalizes the protection of everything surrounding Spirit Mountain itself.”
According to Patterson, the collaboration of several groups and tribes was crucial to the success of this operation. “I hope that the public really looks at this and doesn’t take it as like, ‘Oh, this was some overreaching federal land grab,'” she said. “This was something that was very grassroots and done from the communities that were involved.”
A wide variety of environmental organizations praised Biden’s actions. Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center For Western Priorities, said-
“Today is a great day for Western public lands. “I’m just really pleased to see him follow through on his commitment today. It’s been years in the making as local leaders in Nevada really push to have this area protected.”
The approach to the environment that Biden advocates for has been met with skepticism by other environmental groups. In response to the approval of the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, some groups demonstrated outside Interior Department headquarters during the meeting.
Rokala, though, agrees with the president’s actions. “I think the president’s commitment to protecting and conserving public lands and waters is real,” she said. “The Willow decision is unfortunate, but I think today’s announcement is a big day to celebrate.”
She further speculated that this would convince Biden to defend other Western public and tribal properties. Rokala said- “We’ve seen that in poll after poll that there is broad bipartisan support for the protection of more public lands as national parks, national monuments, and national wildlife refuges.”
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Patterson mentioned Biden’s role in the initial step toward restoring Bears Ears National Monument in 2021 after Trump had previously decreased the monument by 1.1 million acres. She is optimistic that the title of Awi Kwa Ame is just the beginning. “I hope this is just the next step in a long line of tribally led projects and hopefully more management and stewardship,” she said.
Castner Range in Texas, used by the U.S. Army during World War II, was likewise named a national monument by the president.