For the past eight years I’ve lived in a four-stoplight town that is a gateway to Joshua Tree National Park. I moved to Joshua Tree after living in the crowded greater Los Angeles area, where I taught elementary school, had a freelance writing business and moonlighted as a board member for the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society.

The transition from city lights to quiet nights was a great one. Rows of empty parking spaces beckoned me at the supermarket. I began to know my neighbors really well – for better or for worse. At night, from my backyard, I gazed up at millions of stars and the hazy white light of the Milky Way. Best of all, there were millions of acres of mountains, washes, canyons and oases on public land in every direction… and many, many birds!

This year, thanks to President Obama, Senator Feinstein and the work of many tireless advocates, people around our nation have something to celebrate: The creation of the Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains National Monuments. These new monuments connect and protect 1.8 million acres of California desert ecosystems, preserve historical and cultural sites, and enhance opportunities for recreation… including some of the best birding in California.

by Seth Shteir, KCET
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