On Thursday, President Joe Biden formally signed a proclamation to protect 120,000 acres of land by expanding two national monuments in California.

According to the White House, the proclamation will add a total of 105,919 acres of land to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. It will also add 13,696 acres of land to the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.

Prior to joining Biden at the proclamation signing, Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement saying, “These expansions will increase access to nature, boost our outdoor economy, and honor areas of significance to Tribal Nations and indigenous peoples as we continue to safeguard our public lands for all Americans and for generations to come.” 

When she was serving as a senator, Vice President Harris worked as part of an initiative to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

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The proclamation comes ahead of the president’s reelection bid as one of the Biden administration’s latest efforts to conserve millions of acres of land and water in the region.

San Gabriel is a breathtaking expanse of mountainous wilderness that sits just east of Los Angeles. Berryessa is a massive range of rolling hills, canyons, and the native wildflowers that decorate the area north of Napa.

In a separate statement, democratic senator of California, Alex Padilla, said, “Our national monuments hold some of our greatest natural marvels… These monuments have fostered a lifelong connection to nature for millions of Californians.” 

Longtime advocate of expanding both monuments, Democratic representative Judy Chu of California, stated that expanding San Gabriel would ultimately safeguard the source of one-third of Los Angeles County’s drinking water, providing much-needed “access to nature for low-income and underserved communities.”

The Biden administration, which has most recently designated a new national monument near the Grand Canyon — the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument — has conserved more than 24,000,000 acres of public lands during its first three years. President Biden has also designated new monuments in Colorado and Nevada while also restoring protections for national monuments located in Utah, which former President Donald Trump previously restricted.

National monuments are historic areas of cultural or natural significance and are legally designated for federal protection. Reimagining the boundaries for the California monuments is set to serve multiple purposes, including the protection of sacred sites for Native American tribes, expanding public access to the outdoors, and conserving land.

Last month, Representative Chu said, “The San Gabriel Mountains are among the most pristine and beautiful public lands in the country, with more visitors annually than Yellowstone, and they are right next to one of the nation’s densest and most park-deprived population centers.” 

Chu added, “I’d be absolutely elated for President Biden to use his executive authorities to finalize this, recognize the significance of all these lands, and unlock additional federal supports and resources.”

Now that President Biden has finalized the expansion, democratic representatives in California can breathe a sigh of relief for the protection of these two national monuments and all that the move means for the sake of progress.