A huge swath of breathtaking California desert just got federal protection courtesy of President Obama. The Los Angeles Times reports Obama named three new national monuments—Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains—Thursday using a 1906 law letting presidents create such monuments to protect "objects of historic and scientific interest." According to the Desert Sun, the new national monuments will keep 1.8 million acres of desert from being developed, a move that's "sure to draw criticism from some Republican politicians." "This kind of landscape is so much a part of what the West once was, and these monuments are icons of our cultural heritage," the Times quotes Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who's been seeking federal protection for the areas for a decade. "Simply put, the California desert is a national treasure."
"Our country is home to some of the most beautiful God-given landscapes in the world," Obama says in a White House release. "It’s our responsibility to protect these treasures for future generations, just as previous generations protected them for us." The protected areas are home to more than 250 types of birds, plus tortoises, bighorn sheep, and more. The Mojave Trails contains "ancient Native American trading routes, World War II-era training camps, and the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66." Thirty miles of the Pacific Crest Trail runs through Sand to Snow. And, as the New Republic points out, the areas are super popular locations for music videos, such as Shania Twain's That Don't Impress Me Much. Obama has now protected more land and water than any other president. (Read more conservation stories.)