Three Southern California desert landscapes that overlap to cover more than 1.8 million acres were designated as national monuments this week.
A public celebration held to laud Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains' recent national monument designations brought out community leaders from across the country, who celebrated the lands' increased federal protection.
President Barack Obama designated the three monuments -- which stretch from northern Riverside County to near the Nevada border -- in February. Local leaders campaigned for the monument designation for more than a decade.
"I am thrilled that President Obama protected these lands and thankful to Secretary Jewell, Secretary Vilsack and Senator Feinstein for their leadership," said Pastor Frank Ruiz with the Indio Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Coachella Valley. "We now have a great opportunity to involve our region's young people in helping to steward the monuments in the years to come."
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron and San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos were among the state and federal legislative and forestry representatives in attendance.
"A decades-long campaign, led by Senator (Dianne) Feinstein with help from many Congressional leaders, stakeholders, and local leaders, paved the way for President Obama to preserve these spectacular desert landscapes and recreational uses for generations to come," Secretary Jewell said. "Thanks to their collective vision, leadership, and tenacity, our children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren will have the opportunity to know and love these places as we do."
The lands, which connect Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest and 15 wilderness areas, will be managed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.
The agencies will work with the public in comprehensive planning regarding the management of the areas, according to the Department of the Interior.
In addition to the speakers, guests enjoyed musical performances from the Midnight Special and the Native American Bird Speakers, along with guided hikes through the Whitewater Preserve and into the Sand to Snow National Monument.
Copyright City News Service/NBC Southern California