Paulette Brown-Hinds, PhD
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of exploring the petroglyphs in the deserts of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. I must have still been a student at Muscott Elementary School and my mother, a recent graduate with a geography degree from Cal State San Bernardino, had just started a job with the S.B. County Planning Department. She was passionate about exploring the desert landscape and brought us all along so that we would hopefully develop that passion as well. I remember many of those trips far from any area resembling a city or town, except for the ghost towns of course, where snakes and other desert critters outnumbered humans, and where we studied the architecture of trees and marveled at gravity-defying rock formations.
It was because of those early trips that I learned to appreciate the beauty of the desert landscape and understand the value of preserving and protecting it for the benefit of future generations. That exposure to the unique cultural and historical features of the desert has had a profound and lasting impact on my other siblings as well.
My older sister Lynn, whose favorite Christmas gift was probably the junior geology kit she received when she was nine, is a member of the Orange Belt Mineralogical Society, and she spends her free time with “rock hounds,” gem lovers, and jewelry makers who value the natural treasures of the desert.
My brother Hardy was a board member for the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council for the past decade, an organization that currently offers a series of special achievement patches to engage and cultivate new generations of public land supporters. They include a main California Desert National Monuments patch and three additional add-on patches for Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments. Girls earn the Mojave Trails patch by studying environmental species like endangered animals and native plant species; Sand to Snow by learning about plant and animal adaptations; and Castle Mountains by focusing on native peoples and their use of land, plants, and animals.
Several weeks ago I received an email from Alex Tortes, a regular reader who often sends me news from Indian Country. He sent a series of articles after President Trump signed Executive Order 13792, calling for the Department of the Interior to review National Monuments previously designated by his predecessors Bush, Clinton, and Obama. As part of the review process Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has asked for public comment from stakeholders and the community at large. Alex was concerned that the new administration may try to revoke or modify the existing boundaries of our region’s monuments threatening the sites as well as Native American culture. Many of our top leaders concur.
In a joint letter to Secretary Zinke, California’s U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris urge that “these iconic landscapes and historic landmarks” be preserved with their present boundaries to ensure “these special places remain for generations to come.” They also list the positive economic impacts these designations bring to surrounding communities: “A 2015 report by the nonpartisan Sonoran Institute found that much of the economic growth in California’s desert region over the past four decades was attributable to businesses and demographic changes that benefit directly from preserving the desert.”
You have an opportunity to protect California’s desert public lands by adding your voice of support for our local national monuments. Submit your comments through the desert defenders page hosted by the Mojave Desert Land Trust, www.mdlt.org/desert-defenders, by July 10th. Let the Department of the Interior know that you would like our California desert to remain a protected place.
Photos courtesy of Campaign for the California Desert