|San Gorgonio and the San Bernardino Mountains from the vicinity of Idyllwild|
|Photo by Mrs. Geotripper|
The mountain range is a treasure. In my youth, I honed my hiking and camping skills in these mountains, and from them I learned to love topographic maps. It pains me that I don't have digital images of the sights I saw in these peaks forty years ago when I regularly backpacked in and out of the canyons and across the mountaintops. One of my most vivid teenage memories is a hike I took into the headwaters of the North Fork of the Whitewater River. The camp was on a terrace above the creek, and there was an expansive view eastward into the desert around Palm Springs. As the sun set, we could see thunderheads rising in the far distance, and the nighttime was punctuated with flashes of lightning. I had never felt so isolated in my life, and that is not a common feeling for the people of SoCal. It was exhilarating, and I loved every moment.
|Source: National Park Service|
|Source: U.S. Geological Survey, via http://www.livescience.com/48393-pygmy-mammoths-channel-islands.htmls|
And smaller. Eventually, a race of pygmy mammoths (Mammuthus exilis) evolved. Some of the adults stood no higher than 7 feet at the shoulder, and weighed one ton, instead as much as ten. Eventually though, even small size wasn't enough. They became extinct about 12,000 years ago.
But this post is not pessimistic. Far from it. This is about a piece of tremendously good news that came to pass this week. For years, California Senator Feinstein has been promoting the idea of several national monuments or parks in Southern California. The political gridlock in Congress has prevented anything from being done, but President Obama has used his authority under the National Antiquities Act to declare three new national monuments. Two of them are in the Mojave Desert, in the Castle Mountains, and in the landscape between Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. The third, Snow to Sand National Monument, brings protection to the highest ridges of the San Bernardino Mountains to the desert floor at Morongo, and even more importantly, linking the mountains to Joshua Tree National Park. This has the effect of bringing permanent protection to a very scenic wilderness area, but even more importantly, producing an intact ecosystem that will give declining wildlife populations a fighting chance to survive, especially as our global climate warms up.
By preserving an unbroken habitat from just above sea level to 11,499 feet, there were be room for upward migration of animal and plant species as the lower levels become hotter and drier. Few places in the world offer such a range of available habitats. There is so little left, so I'm glad to see these efforts to protect such a fascinating region. The mountains of my youth!