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Biden is expanding two national monuments in California that are significant to tribal nations

President Joe Biden expanded two national monuments in California on Thursday after tribal nations, indigenous community leaders and others called for permanent protection of nearly 120,000 acres (48,562 hectares) of important cultural and environmental lands.

The designations play a role in federal and state goals to conserve 30% of public lands by 2030, a move aimed at honoring tribal heritage and addressing climate change, the White House said in a news release.

Republicans have rejected some of Biden's previous protections, claiming he has overstepped his legal authority. The President's previous actions have included: Restoration of monuments or nature reserves that former President Donald Trump had canceled.

In Pasadena, Southern California, Biden expanded the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, driven by calls from indigenous peoples, including the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and the Gabrieleno San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. Both are the original custodians of the culturally rich and diverse lands, advocates said in a separate press release.

The president also expanded the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in Sacramento in Northern California to include Molok Luyuk, or Condor Ridge. The ridge has been important to tribal nations like the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for thousands of years. It is a central site for religious ceremonies and was once important for major trade routes, the government said.

The expansion of both sites makes nature more accessible to Californians while protecting a range of species, including black bears, mountain lions and tule elk, the White House press release said.

According to the Interior Department, expansion and designation efforts are undertaken under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the president to “provide general legal protection for cultural and natural resources of historic or scientific interest on federal lands.”

Californians are calling on Biden to make a total of five monument designations this year. The other three include the designation of a new Chuckwalla National Monument, a new Kw'tsán National Monument and a call to protect and designate Sáttítla, known as Medicine Lake Highlands, as a national monument.

Across the nation, Coalitions of tribes and conservation groups have pushed Biden to make a series of designations over the past three years. With Thursday's newsAccording to the White House, the administration has established or expanded seven national monuments, restored protection to three others and taken other actions.

Biden signed a national historic preservation declaration outside Grand Canyon National Park proclaimed Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni last August, a move sought by the two top Republicans in the Arizona Legislature currently challenging.

In 2021, Biden restored two sprawling national monuments in Utah and a marine sanctuary in New England where Trump had slashed environmental protections. The move was too challenged in court.

Avi Kwa Ame National MonumentSacred to the Native Americans of southern Nevada, it was named in 2023.

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Alexa St. John is a climate solutions reporter for the Associated Press. Follow her on X: @alexa_stjohn. Reach them at [email protected].

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