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Activists in Nevada are fighting to permanently protect a stretch of Mojave Desert with ecological and Native American cultural importance. The proposed site would be called Avi Kwa Ama National Monument and would encompass 594 square miles, including a Spanish Colonial Revival house that belonged to 1920s stars Clara Bow and Rex Bell.
Gabriel di Chiara, a Nevada Conservation League organizer, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “There are threats to the sort of peace and the environment that we’re in right now. And we believe establishing this monument will preserve this land and this way of life for future generations, and it’s vitally important.”
Why This Matters: During the recent G7 summit, the Biden administration committed to a conservation plan that would protect 30% of American lands and water by 2030, and the Avi Kwa Ama National Monument would help the administration reach its goal.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, and has prioritized protecting lands of cultural significance to Native people.
In a report released earlier this month, Haaland recommended protecting Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, as well as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, a series of underwater mountains off the coast of New England.
Protecting Cultural Lands: Protections for Avi Kwa Ama haven’t yet been ratified by the federal government, but putting monuments under federal protection would promote conservation and play a small part in rectifying centuries of discrimination and violence against Indigenous people. Many of these monuments house ancient Native cliff dwellings and sacred burial grounds. For example, Bear Ears s the ancestral homeland of five tribal nations — the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Pueblo of Zuni.
Environmentalists applauded the proposal. Dan Hartinger, director of government relations for The Wilderness Society, told the New York Times: “We welcome this news after years of litigation aimed at restoring the much needed protections for these lands and waters.”
Activists for indigenous issues echoed the sentiment. Taylor Patterson, executive director of Native Voters Alliance Nevada, emphasized the importance of protecting Avi Kwa Ama to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “I don’t want to say ‘eternal thing,’ but for Fort Mojave, it’s been a consistent thing that this is their ancestral land, these are spaces that are really important to their cosmology, to their oral tradition, and it needs to be protected.”
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