Obama grants monument status to vast swath of California desert


LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Barack Obama is granting national monument status for nearly 1.8 million acres of scenic Southern California desert.

Obama, in California this week for a fundraising swing, is making the announcement Friday.

The White House says the designations will maintain in perpetuity the regions' fragile ecosystem and natural resources, as well as provide recreational opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters and others.

Monument designations are being granted to two sections of the Mojave Desert and one Sonoran Desert region.

The areas become Mojave Trails National Monument, Castle Mountains National Monument and Sand to Snow National Monument. Mojave Trails, at 1.6 million acres, is by far the largest.

Together the monuments contain ancient lava flows, spectacular sand dunes, ancient Native American artifacts and numerous species of wildlife, including some that are endangered.