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Obama designates 2 desert areas as new national monuments

IANS | Washington |

US President Barack Obama designated two new national monuments protecting large desert areas in Utah and Nevada with just more than three weeks remaining in his term.

The move to protect Bears Ears in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada comes in response to the demand of the native tribes living in the vicinity, who consider this land to be sacred, Efe news reported.

The National Monument Bears Ears is spread over an area of 5,463 of natural and archaeological resources including ancient cliff dwellings, abundant rock art, artefacts and ceremonial sites, according to the White House on Wednesday.

The National Monument will be managed by a commission appointed by the Departments of the Interior and agriculture, as well as by the native tribes Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain and Zuni who demanded its protection.

Besides Bears Ears, Obama also established 1,214 of protected areas near Las Vegas (Nevada) conserving the vegetation, wildlife habitats, cultural resources and geological formations.

The National Monument of Gold Butte includes abundant rock art, archaeological artefacts, and rare fossils, including recently discovered dinosaur tracks dating back hundreds of millions of years, all resources having faced damage due to vandalism in recent years.

The monument will connect already protected areas including Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon-Parashant across the Arizona border, creating a wildlife corridor for large mammals such as desert bighorn sheep and mountain lions as well as other species like the threatened Mojave desert tortoise.

Additionally, the monument will also protect historic resources such as traces of Spanish explorers from the late 18th century, an abandoned mining town and structures marking the western ranching heritage.

The designation of these two areas as national monuments comes 23 days before the President-elect Donald Trump assumes office on January 20, 2017. He has appeared to be a promoter of more prospecting for oil in areas controlled by the state.

The White House emphasised that Obama has been the President to protect the most territory in the history of the US.

In September, the President created the world's largest marine protected area, expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument four times, up to one and a half million square kilometers, in the Pacific Ocean.