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Opinion: President Biden, protect these Nevada lands

John King

This opinion column was submitted by John King, a Boulder City resident who served 35-plus years in the National Park Service.

Last year, President Biden set our first-ever national conservation goal — to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 — as part of his America the Beautiful Plan. And one of the best ways this administration can help to achieve this goal is to protect public land at risk through the use of the Antiquities Act.

This act is a powerful and bipartisan tool that can help us to preserve our irreplaceable resources for future generations. It authorizes President Biden to designate national monuments on federal lands that contains natural or cultural resources in need of protection.

I spent over 35 years working for the National Park Service, protecting some of our country’s most treasured natural and cultural resources. I’ve seen firsthand the importance of preservation and conservation. More than 100 units of the National Park System got their start thanks to the Antiquities Act, including Grand Canyon National Park, Acadia National Park and our own Great Basin National Park.

If we look back at history, we’ll find that 18 of the 22 presidents have exercised their authority under the Antiquities Act since its passage in 1906, including President Biden who utilized the Act when he restored the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument.

While the restoration of those boundaries helped to protect three incredible spaces, there are thousands of acres of public land that are still in need of protection.

For several years, I served as superintendent of Big Bend National Park, a half day’s drive away from the mountains of the Castner Range. This beautiful landscape is the focus of a longstanding community effort to create a new national monument that will help protect the land’s cultural, historical and environmental qualities, and preserve the landscape from future development.

 Sunset over the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument
Sunset over the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument Courtesy Alan O’Neil

Following my retirement from the NPS, I relocated to Nevada. Today, I live not far from Avi Kwa Ame, a sacred site rich in biodiversity. There is strong support to designate this space a national monument and protect more than 400,000 acres of environmentally and culturally significant lands in the Mojave Desert.

These sites, and many others like them, are in need of additional protections to better preserve and protect their irreplaceable resources and stories and I urge President Biden to designate them as national monuments.

Now is the time for President Biden to begin building an inclusive and resilient conservation legacy that reflects the diversity of our natural heritage and permanently protects our lands and waters. He has less than three years left in his term, and eight years left before 2030. We must move quickly to meet our conservation goals and ensure that future generations can visit and appreciate the same natural and cultural wonders that we enjoy today.

John King served at numerous units of the National Park Service throughout his 35-plus years with the NPS, including as superintendent of Big Bend and Virgin Islands National Parks. He currently lives in Boulder City and is a member of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.