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Home / Joshua Tree

Bill could expand Joshua Tree, create Chuckwalla National Monument

U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.) and Representative Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-25) on Tuesday announced bicameral legislation to create the Chuckwalla National Monument and expand Joshua Tree National Park. 

This bill would establish a new Chuckwalla National Monument in eastern Imperial and Riverside counties to protect approximately 627,855 acres of California’s desert landscape. It would also expand Joshua Tree National Park by approximately 17,915 acres of previously designated public lands, as recommended by the National Park Service.

“Establishing the Chuckwalla National Monument across California’s vast desert landscape would help us fight the climate crisis, protect critical wildlife corridors, preserve sacred tribal sites, and improve equitable access to nature for our local communities,” said Padilla. “Our proposal reflects the input of tribal leaders who have fought for years to protect these sacred landscapes, and from our partners in the energy industry who worked with us to carefully craft the Monument’s boundaries to ensure we can meet our shared clean energy goals.”

Butler echoes Padilla, “Honoring Indigenous lands goes hand in hand with our broader conservation efforts, and establishing the Chuckwalla National Monument is so important for the region.” 

Ruiz added that the monument “will enhance tourism and economic opportunities in our region and provide a new venue for constituents to hike, bike, and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes and natural beauty of our desert.”

The lands within the proposed national monument include the homelands of the Iviatim, Nüwü, Pipa Aha Macav, Kwatsáan, and Maara’yam peoples (Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Mojave, Quechan, and Serrano nations). Designating the Chuckwalla National Monument would help to protect important spiritual and cultural values tied to the land such as multi-use trail systems established by Indigenous peoples, sacred sites and objects, traditional cultural places, geoglyphs, petroglyphs, pictographs, and native plants and wildlife.

Tribal leaders expressed their support for the bill. 

“The area contains thousands of cultural places and objects of vital importance to the history and identity of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians,” said Chairman Thomas Tortez Jr. of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians. 

“The Cahuilla Band of Indians is in strong support of the creation of the Chuckwalla National Monument,” said Erica Schenk, chairwoman of the Cahuilla Band of Indians. “The area includes village sites, camps, quarries, food processing sites, power places, trails, glyphs, and story and song locations, all of which are evidence of the Cahuilla people’s and other tribes’ close and spiritual relationship to these desert lands.”

Jordan D. Joaquin, president of the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe, said the tribe “wholeheartedly” supports the creation of the monument. “These lands encompass our origins, history, songs, religious ceremonies, ancient sites, trails, petroglyphs, artifacts, and intaglios that are spread throughout our traditional territories,” he said, echoing other tribe leaders.

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