WASHINGTON, July 10 (UPI) -- The White House plans to designate three new national monuments Friday in California, Texas and Nevada, placing more than a million acres under monument status despite some objections.
The move brings the number of national monuments to 19 created or expanded by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a move that's been criticized as sidestepping the congressional process. The newest will be the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California, the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas and the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada.
While environmentalists in the three states cheered the actions, others criticized the move. In Nevada, Lincoln County Commissioner Kevin Phillips, who has long fought the public preservation campaign for the Basin and Range area, could barely contain his disdain. He said the action was from "an imperial president and some imperial senator" and will close the area to oil, gas and mineral exploration.
"It's disgusting. It's loathsome. It's illegal. It's unfair. We feel like we're not citizens," Phillips said. "A monument to what for criminy's sake?"
The Basin and Range National Monument, home to rare rock art and carvings dating back 4,000 years, will encompass 704,000 acres and cover two counties. It is also home to "City," abstract sculptures that took artist Michael Heizer four decades to create and considered some of the most significant works of art in the country. At one point, the area was being considered for a nuclear waste rail line and a location for oil exploration.
Some 1,300 miles from Nevada, the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas will protect the remains of 24 well-preserved Columbian mammoths dating back some 65,000 years. The archeological site, which has been excavated for the past 30 years, also holds remains from animals that include the saber-toothed cat, dwarf antelope, American alligator and giant tortoise.
"It is a day that has been long anticipated," said Gloria Young, a Waco Mammoth Foundation treasurer who led a $4.2 million fundraising campaign to develop and protect the site. "I am so thrilled that it's actually taking place. I was beginning to wonder if I would have already joined the mammoths in the ground before this took place."
At the Berryessa Snow Mountain site in Northern California, Craig Morton, a member of the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce, said the national monument status will do little for the area.
The Berryessa connects three wilderness areas and is home to cultural sites of Native Americans, who have lived in the area for some 11,000 years. It's a popular spot for hiking, fishing and camping and is a winter habitat for bald eagles. Morton said the status will just add another layer of bureaucracy to managing the land.
"Overall, I think the whole thing is ridiculous," Morton said.