A giant swath of fragile, desert ecosystems half the size of Connecticut has just received permanent protection — creating a migratory superhighway for endangered animals.

Three new national monuments designated by President Obama will link already protected lands, including Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve which are 100 miles apart, by setting aside an additional 1.8 million acres as safe from development.


Adjacent to 15 other wilderness tracts protected by Congress, the California areas known as Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains are now protected “in perpetuity.”

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The areas are home to a diverse population of wildlife ranging from mountain lions and bobcats to antelopes and bighorn sheep to golden eagles and desert tortoises. The Sand to Snow Monument also will protect sacred, archaeological and cultural sites, including some 1,700 Native American petroglyphs.

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Tying the different areas together will make it easier for wildlife to safely migrate, and plant species to expand into other elevation ranges, especially if they experience climate stress in future decades.

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“Permanent protection of these desert regions will mean a chance of survival for endangered wildlife and rare plants that need space to migrate and adapt in this era of climate change,” Dan Smuts, California Senior Regional Director of the Wilderness Society said.

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The announcement in February doubles the amount of land or ocean that President Obama has set aside for conservation during his term. His use of the Antiquities Act to designate areas for protection, is consistent with Republican presidents who have created 82 national monuments since 1906 and Democratic presidents who have created 105 monuments, including such wonders as the Grand Canyon.

(READ more at Smithsonian) — Photos: The White House

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