Southwest Public Lands Permanently Conserved Via Antiquities Act

News for Immediate Release
March 21, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

President Biden designates Avi Kwa Ame National Monument and Castner Range National Monument following requests by Tribes, hunters, business owners, local residents

WASHINGTON – Valuable wildlife habitat and important cultural lands will be permanently conserved following the Biden administration’s designation today of Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in southern Nevada and Castner Range National Monument in west Texas.

Avi Kwa Ame National Monument spans more than 500,000 acres of federal public lands that will continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The state of Nevada will retain wildlife management authority under the proclamation language, including active management for water resources to sustain wildlife populations. Hunting and existing public access opportunities will be maintained, and the proclamation requires representatives from the hunting community to be on the monument advisory committee.

Located on Fort Bliss in Texas, Castner Range National Monument comprises 6,672 acres of the historic testing and training site for the U.S. 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. The region’s conservation will provide increased access to public lands that have been closed since 1966 in addition to 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 the Castner Range have historically played an important role in providing habitat to a range of wildlife in addition to being culturally significant to Indigenous communities and hunter opportunity.

“We commend the administration for listening to the calls of hunters, local residents, recreationists, Tribal members and others and taking action 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 advance 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 Indigenous tribes. The area is home to diverse species of wildlife and their habitat, including migration corridors for desert bighorn sheep, and is surrounded by nine distinct wilderness areas.

BHA and a diverse community of stakeholders, including Indigenous 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 – and to our outdoor traditions,” said Karen Boeger, a self-described “desert rat” who sits on the Nevada BHA chapter board. “We thank the administration for recognizing the value of this landscape and especially for its direction to the Interior Department to continue its work with Nevada Department of Wildlife on a memorandum of understanding. We support the president’s taking action under the Antiquities Act to ensure that our kids and grandkids will be able to access these lands in perpetuity.”

BHA has consistently advocated for America’s national monuments system and the judicious use of the Antiquities Act as a way to permanently conserve important large landscapes. Key to achieving this outcome is a process that adheres to specific tenets and is locally driven, transparent, incorporates the science-based management of habitat, and upholds existing hunting and fishing opportunities.

In 2016, BHA and a consortium of outdoor groups and businesses released a report on how national monument designations can sustain important fish and wildlife habitat while maintaining traditional hunting and fishing access.

Read National Monuments: A Sportsman’s Perspective. 

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About Katie McKalip