In February the California desert gained three new national monuments and 1.8 million acres of the desert I live in and grew up in was protected for future generations to come.

As the president of the Needles Chamber of Commerce, I understand how National Monuments and National Parks are valuable economic drivers as well as places to relax, recharge and enjoy the beauty of nature. While Needles is still suffering from a lack of resources and slowly recovering from the recession, we’ve just gained new ground with the Castle Mountains National Monument and the Mojave Trails National Monument designations, which have given our businesses a reason to celebrate.

As a way to maximize the value of these protected lands, we are partnering with Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) on a new Monuments Marketing Tool Kit to help our struggling businesses find creative ways to leverage the new monuments designations. The tool kit will help businesses generate renewed interest in our surrounding lands, and boost interest in the services we provide to people who visit from all over the world.

Last weekend MDLT hosted a special 4 wheel drive excursion and overnight camping trip to the newly designated Castle Mountains National Monument in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, and of all the public lands that contribute to Californians’ quality of life. It was the first event of its kind to take place in the new Monument.

Attendees joined a caravan from Goffs to a remote campsite in Castle Mountains. Along the way the caravan stopped at a cultural site for lunch and later, at the campsite, attendees gathered around the campfire to learn about the desert ecosystem.

Attendees from Los Angeles, Cathedral City, Needles, Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and Henderson, Nevada came to learn of the significant role Mojave Desert Land Trust has played in the new California Desert Monuments designations and how they are protecting the entire California Desert across 28 percent of California’s landmass. This was a rare opportunity for community members to enjoy the new Desert Monuments which, together with Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, comprise the largest protected landscape in the lower 48 states — right here in Southern California.

These lands surround Needles, and our businesses benefit from the infusion of visitors to the area.

We appreciate the efforts of and our partnership with MDLT and look forward to working with numerous partners to promote and steward the priceless gifts our desert has to offer. Please join me in celebrating public lands’ contributions to our region and way of life, and enjoy visiting with your families the desert monument in our own backyards.

Pamela Blake is the president of the Needles Chamber of Commerce and was born and raised in Needles.

by Pamela Blake, guest, Victorville Daily Press

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