Biden called for better protection of key part of Sierra Nevada

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The Merced River flows through Yosemite Valley.

Contributed

Last year, President Biden set our first-ever national conservation goal — conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 — as part of his america the beautiful Plan.

Two pieces of legislation can play an important role in achieving the administration’s 30×30 initiative; the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Antiquities Act of 1906. A key feature of the Wilderness Act and the Antiquities Act? These laws do not require or compel the federal government to acquire new lands, but rather to place existing federal lands under a different management regime. Both are essential to achieving our nation’s conservation goals.

the Wilderness Act requires an act of Congress, which seems unrealistic in these controversial times. But the Antiquities Act is a powerful tool that empowers the president to designate national monuments on federal lands that contain natural or cultural resources in need of protection.

Collectively, we have spent 80 years working for the National Park Service, protecting some of our country’s most precious natural and cultural resources in national parks across the country. During our time with the NPS, we have seen firsthand the importance of preservation and conservation. We have also worked in many national parks that came into existence through the Antiquities Act, including Channel Islands National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Muir Woods National Monument.

If we look at history, we will find that 18 of the 22 presidents have exercised their authority under the Antiquities Act since it was passed in 1906, including President Biden, who used the law when he restored the boundaries Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument. But there are still thousands of acres of public land at risk.

For example, more than a million acres between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks are federal lands requiring additional protections.

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A sequoia in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Gary E. Davis Contributed

Yosemite National Park is about two-thirds smaller today than when it was originally designated by Congress in 1890. About half of this area is already congressional designated wilderness, although some non-conforming uses have been authorized by Congress within it. The Range of Light National Monument would connect the two parks to serve as a habitat area in an incredibly important landscape.

According to Unite the Parks Campaign, half of California’s native plant species live in the Sierra Nevada, and more than 400 are found nowhere else on Earth, in addition to 93 species at risk. A National Monument designation for this landscape will prevent development, restore habitat, enhance wildlife corridors, and provide additional conservation and recreation opportunities.

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Russell Galipeau Contributed

There are other landscapes, such as Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada, Santiam Watershed in Oregon (the proposed Douglas Fir National Monument), and Castner Range in Texas that would also benefit from the additional protections that a designation of national monument could provide. Using the Antiquities Act in these situations would not only benefit the environment and help us achieve our conservation goals, but would strengthen local communities and economies.

Other areas have also been discussed as new national monuments. We have less than eight years to achieve the goals set out in the America the Beautiful plan. We urge President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to further protect federal lands here in California and across the country. The threats of climate change, in particular, require our immediate action. Irreplaceable resources, home to plants, wildlife and our heritage, need our help.

Russell Galipeau served the National Park Service for 40 years and worked in seven national parks ranging from the Everglades to Wrangell-St. Elias and the Channel Islands. He lives in Newbury Park. Don Neubacher had a 36-year career with the Park Service that included appointments to Point Reyes National Seashore, Glacier Bay National Park, Denver Service Center, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and National Park of Yosemite. He lives in the town of Olema, Marin County.

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Don Neubacher Contributed

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