Hands-on at Sand to Snow National Monument
A team of young military veterans who are part of the California Conservation Corps recently completed a three-week restoration project in Sand to Snow National Monument in San Bernardino County, California. This 154,000-acre National Monument—one of the nation’s most recently designated and newest additions to the National Conservation Lands—is an ecological and cultural treasure and one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California, supporting more than 240 species of birds and twelve threatened and endangered wildlife species. Home to the region’s tallest alpine mountain that rises from the floor of the Sonoran desert, the monument protects sacred, archaeological and cultural sites, including an estimated 1,700 Native American petroglyphs.
The work was made possible by a $35,000 grant from Edison International, which has supported the Conservation Lands Foundation’s Restoration-Stewardship Program since it began in 2013. Called “From Military Service to Green Service,” the Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF) collaborates with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the California Conservation Corps (CCC) to advance the careers of returning military servicemen and servicewomen who are passionate about improving the natural environments on America’s public lands, in particular on the BLM’s National Conservation Lands. The goal of this partnership was to create paid opportunities, training and hands-on experience for post 9/11 veterans in natural resources management, and to improve habitat and cultural resources conservation on the Monument. The program empowers veterans to transition to civilian life in a low-stress environment by leveraging their leadership experience, skills in problem solving, and previous technical training to help address pressing conservation needs on public lands.
Within Sand to Snow National Monument, the project area is referred to as Black Lava Buttes and is adjacent to the Flamingo Hills community. It is heavily used and enjoyed by local residents, which also means it is in need of effective management to maintain safe access as well as ensure proper protection of its remarkable Native American petroglyphs and archaeological sites.
The corps established designated routes for hikers, closed and redirected roads that currently damage washes and plant-life, and stymied illegal dumping. A special volunteer day enlisted the help of local nonprofit volunteers. Additional project partners included the Mojave Desert Land Trust, which organized and brought volunteers from neighboring communities for a day of work alongside the Veterans Conservation Corps.
Sand to Snow is one of three new monuments in southern California–all created one year ago by President Obama under authority of the Antiquities Act. In addition to this project with the Veterans Conservation Corps, many community members, elected officials, and desert-lovers turned out for additional events and celebrations marking the monuments’ one-year anniversary.