Southwest Public Lands Permanently Preserved Through the Antiquities Act

President Biden designates Avi Kwa Ame National Monument and Castner Range National Monument following requests from tribes, hunters, business owners, and local residents.

WASHINGTON – Valuable wildlife habitat and important cultural lands will be permanently preserved after the Biden administration today designated Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in southern Nevada and Castner Range National Monument in west Texas.

The Avi Kwa Ame National Monument encompasses more than 500,000 acres of federal public land that will continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The State of Nevada will retain wildlife management authority under the language of the proclamation, including the active management of water resources to support wildlife populations. Existing hunting and public access opportunities will be maintained, and the proclamation requires representatives of the hunting community to be on the monument’s advisory committee.

Located at Fort Bliss in Texas, Castner Range National Monument comprises a 6,672-acre historic test and training site for the US Army during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The monument will be managed by the Army, and the landscape will undergo a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process to ensure public safety. Conserving the region will provide greater access to public lands that have been closed since 1966, as well as connecting wildlife habitat, for species such as mule deer, with the adjacent Franklin Mountains State Park.

“Today we celebrate the long-term conservation of public lands in the American Southwest,” said Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The Avi Kwa Ame region and Castner Range have historically played an important role in providing habitat for a variety of wildlife, as well as being culturally significant to indigenous communities and hunting opportunity.

“We commend the administration for listening to the calls of hunters, local residents, recreationists, tribal members, and others, and for taking steps to safeguard them biologically, culturally, recreationally, and economically,” Tawney continued. “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has been honored to work alongside tribal leaders and community members to achieve this momentous victory.”

President Joe Biden pledged in November to promote long-term conservation in southern Nevada. The area south of Las Vegas encompasses Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain, as well as Joshua tree forests, desert landscapes and the ancestral lands of 12 Indian tribes. The area is home to a variety of wildlife species and their habitats, including desert bighorn sheep migration corridors, and is surrounded by nine distinct wilderness areas.

BHA and a diverse community of stakeholders, including Indian tribes, business owners, and local residents, together have advocated for permanent conservation measures that protect the region’s unique cultural values ​​and intact wildlife habitat.

“Hunters in Nevada have long known the importance of the Avi Kwa Ame region to wildlife, none more so than our state animal, the desert bighorn sheep, and to our outdoor traditions,” said Karen Boeger, a self-described “desert rat” who sits on the board of the Nevada BHA chapter. “We thank the administration for recognizing the value of this landscape and especially for directing the Department of the Interior to continue its work with the Nevada Department of Wildlife on a memorandum of understanding. We support the President taking steps under the Antiquities Act to ensure that our children and grandchildren can access these lands in perpetuity.”

BHA has always championed the United States’ national monument system and the judicious use of the Antiquities Act as a way to permanently preserve important great landscapes. The key to achieving this outcome is a process that adheres to specific principles and is locally driven, transparent, incorporates science-based habitat management, and advocates for existing hunting and fishing opportunities.

In 2016, the BHA and a consortium of outdoor groups and companies released a report on how national monument designations can support important fish and wildlife habitats while maintaining access to traditional hunting and fishing.

Read National Monuments: A Sportsman’s Perspective.

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