Sen. Dianne Feinstein, champion of the California desert, is asking President Obama to take executive action to protect hundreds of thousands of acres in the Mojave Desert.
Since 2009, Feinstein has been unsuccessfully trying to convince her colleagues in Congress to designate the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains areas as new national monuments. Now, the Democratic senator is calling on Obama to use the Antiquities Act to set aside desert tracts near Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park.
In a public meeting scheduled for today in Palm Springs, Feinstein and other national, state and local officials will listen to public comment on setting aside the disparate pieces of public land for heightened protection.
All of the land proposed for monument designation is in federal hands and no transfers are required.
Obama has invoked the Antiquities Act sparingly. Most recently he designated the Berryessa-Snow Mountains National Monument in Northern California.
Monument designations can be controversial because they sometimes place restrictions on hunting, off-road recreation and other uses. But Feinstein's proposal would preserve existing recreational activities.
Obama has the option to designate the new monuments without consulting Congress, but Feinstein said she will continue trying to gain support for her legislation.