I joined a group of my fellow veterans and their families recently on a tour of historic Camp Iron Mountain in the East Mojave Desert. Camp Iron Mountain is perhaps the best known and best preserved of the 13 camps that comprised the Desert Training Center commanded during World War II by General George S. Patton, Jr.
During this tour, we learned of the site’s rich history. As part of the 18,000-square-mile Desert Training Center, soldiers stationed at Camp Iron Mountain participated in large-scale military maneuvers and prepared for the hazards and difficulty of engaging in desert warfare against the Axis forces in North Africa during World War II.
We also learned on this trip that Camp Iron Mountain is now part of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument. In August, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to protect this special place as well as the public lands of the proposed Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains National Monuments. National monument status means that these desert lands would be permanently protected and accessible to the public for outdoor recreation activities.
As a veteran, I see these public lands as part of the homeland I helped defend while in uniform. Now, supporting efforts to protect these places as national monuments is an extension of my service to my country.
In addition, when our servicemen and women return from overseas, these areas provide respite and recovery from those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Veterans suffering from PTSD and other war-related traumas hike and camp on public lands every year, finding solace and a refuge for recovery from the conflicts they served in.
Thankfully, a majority of Californians have our backs on this issue.
New polling has shown broad support for new national monuments and protecting public lands. A Vet Voice Foundation poll, conducted by Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, reveals overwhelming support statewide and in the desert region for President Obama to designate the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments.
Three-quarters of California voters support the president designating these three national monuments. Support is also significant among all demographic, geographic and partisan subgroups in the state. For example, statewide 72 percent of Latinos and 73 percent of military and veteran households support this proposal.
Californians also stand ready to support our veterans. More than two-thirds of voters say they’re likely to support monument designation after hearing that psychological studies have demonstrated that spending time in nature is one of the best tools to help veterans heal from the mental and physical wounds of war.
In using the Antiquities Act to designate these national monuments, President Obama would be following in the tradition of 15 presidents before him, starting with Teddy Roosevelt. A veteran and our first “conservationist,” Roosevelt preserved the Grand Canyon. Both Democratic and Republican presidents used the Antiquities Act in the desert: President Herbert Hoover in 1933 to protect Death Valley and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 to protect Joshua Tree.
Veterans want to see these public lands permanently protected as national monuments, for other veterans and their families and also so that the wider community may enjoy the recreation opportunities, serenity and history of the desert.
With this poll, we see that an overwhelming majority of Californians join us in that sentiment. We encourage President Obama to listen to this support and designate the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments.
Steve Dunwoody is an Iraq War veteran and California director of The Vet Voice Foundation, which mobilizes veterans to become leaders in our nation’s democracy through participation in the civic process.
Source: San Bernardino Sun, 12/08/15