Proposed Chuckwalla National Monument
Issues: National Parks, Wild Lands
Partners: 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians, Audubon Society, Cactus to Cloud, California Native Plant Society, Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas, Inland Congregations United for Change, Leadership Council, Native American Land Conservancy, Protect California Deserts
Airport Origin : Thermal, CA
Support the movement to protect 700,000-acres in southern California as a national monument. Provide the aerial perspective of this special desert landscape to conservationists, Tribal organizations, 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians leaders, faith-based groups, staff of Senator Jess Stone, and officials from the Cities of Indio, Desert Hot Springs, Coachella, and Palm Desert.
The proposed Chuckwalla National Monument, named for the large lizard found in the area, will protect about 700,000 acres of important habitat and wildlife corridors. Our overflight examined the Chuckwalla Bench, home to desert forests, cinder cones, and spectacular cactus gardens. Interlacing river channels and canyons filled with ironwood, Palo Verde trees, bunchgrasses, and ocotillo separate expanses of “desert pavement.” The area is one of the largest and most intact desert tortoise habitats in the California desert, contains historic World War II training sites, and is the ancestral homelands of multiple Tribal nations. A national monument designation will protect these cultural, historic, and ecological values, and provide outdoor opportunities for California communities that currently have limited recreational access.
The Bench remains a largely preserved ecosystem because of its early recognition as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. But, the region is threatened by massive proposed residential developments, nearby energy sites, and a lack of legislative protections. The coalition of environmental groups on board our overflights are working to create stronger and lasting environmental protections through a national monument designation. The designation will protect land in Riverside and Imperial counties and preserve a critical ecological buffer for Joshua Tree National Park. The National Monument is complementary to future solar-energy developments under the DRECP, while creating protections for important habitat that supports sensitive desert species like bighorn sheep, chuckwalla, and endemic Munz’s Cholla – California’s largest cactus.
Designating the Chuckwalla National Monument will protect important historical lands, cultural resources, biodiverse species, and create recreational opportunities.
Click for photos from the following day's Chuckwalla overflights
Click to download a .kmz with geo-referenced photos from the 1//19/23 flight
or the 1/20/23 flight