(CN) - The Obama administration said Friday it will create three new national monuments in the California desert, extending federal protection to 1.8 million acres between Palm Springs and the Nevada border.
Obama's designation comes at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has fought for a decade to include land left unprotected by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act. After Feinstein's bid to add the land stalled in the Senate last year, she and conservation groups asked the president to unilaterally create the national monuments.
The 1906 Antiquities Act gives presidents the power to create national monuments on federal land to protect "objects of historic and scientific interest." Obama has so far protected over 265 million acres of land and water, more than any other administration.
His designations do not include funding, however.
The Sierra Club applauded the creation of Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains National Monuments.
"After nearly a decade working to safeguard these special pieces of the California desert, today local communities and desert-lovers from across the state are celebrating," Joan Taylor, vice chair of the Sierra Club's California/Nevada desert committee said. "The monuments feature some of the most spectacular scenery, best wildlife habitat and most outstanding recreation opportunities in the nation. They provide vital connections between areas previously protected as national parks, preserves, and wilderness areas. National monument status will benefit both the environment and the economy well into the future."
Mojave Trails National Monument runs along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66 and links Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.
Sand to Snow National Monument lies between Riverside and Victorville and includes 24 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Castle Mountains National Monument - the smallest of the three - surrounds but does not include an open-pit mine that hasn't been used since 2001 because of low gold prices. The monument lies between Interstates 15 and 40, 100 miles south of Las Vegas.
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