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Trump administration will keep hands off California's Sand to Snow National Monument

 (U.S. Department of Interior)
(U.S. Department of Interior)

At least one expanse of protected land in California is now officially safe from the Trump administration’s plan to eliminate or shrink some country’s national monuments.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced today that the administration has no interest in carving up the Sand to Snow National Monument east of Los Angeles. The 154,000-acre monument that includes some 30 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail was created just last year by President Obama. It is the first California monument Zinke has promised to leave alone in the review Trump ordered of monuments created since 1996 that are more than 100,000 acres.

As with such promises Zinke has made regarding select monuments in other states, there seemed to be little rationale to the timing of the announcement, or why Zinke has chosen to publicly comment on this particular property but none of the five other monuments in California, which include Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails and San Gabriel Mountains.  

“Today, I am recommending that no changes be made to the Sand to Snow National Monument and that the Monument is no longer under official Department of the Interior review,” Zinke said in a statement. “The land of​ ​Sand to Snow National Monument is some of the most ​diverse terrain in the West, and the monument ​is home to incredible geographic, biologic, and archaeological history of our nation.”

The Sand to Snow monument links the floor of the Sonoran Desert to the 11,500 foot summit of San Gorgonio Mountain. It lies between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest, and features sand dunes, petroglyphs and a variety of ecosystems. It was designated by Obama in February 2016.

Whether any other California monuments are safe from Trump’s vow to shrink the size of public lands is an open question. Zinke has until Aug. 24 to present his plans for changes at all the nation’s monuments. He has been crisscrossing the country visiting various monuments under review, revealing little about his intentions along the way. Any changes he proposes will be met with fierce resistance and certain litigation. Several state attorneys general and large environmental groups say the Trump administration has no authority to rescind monument designations and has only extremely limited authority to tinker with existing monument borders.  

The targeting of monuments by the administration has already been confronted by a barrage of public opposition. During the department’s brief public review process, some 2.7 million people submitted comments opposing changes to the monuments, according to the Wilderness Society. 

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