President Joe Biden has made a laudable move. On Tuesday, Biden announced his plan to establish national monuments on more than half a million acres in Nevada and Texas, as well as creating a marine sanctuary in US waters near the Pacific Remote Islands southwest of Hawaii.
At a White House summit on conservation action, President Biden acknowledged these natural resources, stating that they are “protecting the heart and soul of our national pride.” Speaking about the newly designated sites, he emphasized that they are “natural treasures” that “define our identity as a nation. They’re a birthright we have to pass down to generation after generation.”
Specifically, President Biden has designated Avi Kwa Ame, along with the Castner Range in El Paso, Texas, as a national monument, and has also looked to create a national marine sanctuary in US waters around the Pacific Remote Islands. Conservation and tribal groups praised President Biden’s decision. However, the new Governor of Nevada has criticized the Avi Kwa Ame monument as “federal confiscation” of Nevada land and “a historic mistake that will cost Nevadans for generations to come.”
The independent decision by President Biden, without consulting Governor Lombardo, suggests to him that it is a ‘Washington Knows Best’ policy, and contends that this choice might earn plaudits from unaccountable special interests, but it is going to cost the state jobs and economic opportunity.
Biden has always been committed to protecting national wonders, stating in his speech at the Interior Department that “our national wonders are literally the envy of the world. They’ve always been and always will be central to our heritage as a people and essential to our identity as a nation.”
The Avi Kwa Ame landscape is sacred to 12 tribes and is home to rare wildlife and plants. Castner Range is the ancestral homeland of the Comanche and Apache people, and its cultural ecology is considered sacred to several Indigenous communities. Combined, these two national monuments conserve nearly 514,000 acres of public lands.
President Biden also directed the Commerce Department to initiate a marine sanctuary designation to protect 777,000 square miles around the Pacific Remote Islands. If completed, the new sanctuary would help ensure the US reaches Biden’s goal to conserve at least 30% of ocean waters under US jurisdiction by 2030. The new area to be protected is “larger than Alaska and Colorado put together,” said President Biden.
As President Biden makes strides forward in preserving national landscapes, mitigating climate change, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, he still faces criticism from environmental groups and young activists over his approval of the huge Willow oil drilling project in Alaska. Criticism however, does not surprise President Biden as he prepares for reelection campaign.