Secretary Haaland Highlights Locally and Tribally Led Conservation Efforts in Southern California

Last edited 05/20/2024

Date: Monday, May 20, 2024

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Southern California last week, where she met with federal, state, Tribal and local officials and community members to learn about their vision for conserving the area’s natural and cultural resources and meeting shared clean energy goals through the proposed establishment of Chuckwalla National Monument and expansion of Joshua Tree National Park.  

The proposal to establish Chuckwalla National Monument encompasses more than 600,000 acres of existing Bureau of the Land Management public lands within Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California. The desert landscape holds historic objects and cultural significance for many Tribes in the area, and it provides critical habitat and corridors for wildlife, including the Mojave Desert tortoise and Bighorn Sheep.  

The proposal – which has been introduced by members of the California congressional delegation in both chambers of U.S. Congress – builds upon decades of work from Tribes, elected officials, and community members to conserve the greater Chuckwalla landscape and build a responsible clean energy future. 

On Saturday, Secretary Haaland – joined by representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Park Service – heard directly from the community and those who have stewarded the lands for millennia. She held a roundtable with leaders from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Cahuilla Band of Indians, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe, Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, and Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. She also met with local elected leaders, business owners and stakeholders who have helped to shape the proposal. 

On Saturday morning, Secretary Haaland hiked Painted Canyon, an area within the proposed monument of cultural significance. She also visited Joshua Tree National Park, where she learned about the park’s efforts to sustain Joshua Trees and other native vegetation, as well as to address the threats of fire to the landscape. Spanning the intersection of the Colorado and Mojave deserts, the national park was first established as a national monument in 1936 by President Franklin Roosevelt, expanded in 1994 and was renamed a national park under the California Desert Protection Act. The park is receiving historic funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for climate restoration and resilience projects. 

While in California, Secretary Haaland celebrated Endangered Species Day at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge. She met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Navy staff, conservation corps members and other partners and toured a salt marsh, a Least Tern colony and a Green Sea Turtle trapping area.  

On Friday, Secretary Haaland also announced new funding from the President's Investing in America agenda for California to continue cleaning up orphaned oil and gas wells, and the next phase in the Department’s orphaned well clean up program through matching grants.  


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