Robin Kobaly, executive director of The SummerTree Institute

Robin Kobaly, executive director of The SummerTree Institute

New research shows that these unassuming ancient plants – each many hundreds to thousands of years old – are responsible for incredible contributions to our well-being, with many of those gifts remaining mostly unappreciated. For example, each individual deep-rooted desert native plant can provide centuries of active carbon-sequestration, reducing our greenhouse gas problem by capturing CO2 underground in vast pools of caliche around its roots.

Our landscapes of native plants provide multiple centuries of food production for wildlife, with each individual ancient desert plant feeding many generations of bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bear, and other iconic wildlife species over the plant’s lifetime of many hundreds of years. These same natural landscapes provide generation after generation of humans with inspiration, relaxation, healing, rejuvenation, and unique pastimes.

But this emotionally moving desert only remains magical if portions of its landscapes can remain vast, if its iconic views remain graced with ancient plants, if its solitude retains big enough boundaries to protect the silence for each of us to enter and listen for the whispered secrets waiting for all of us to hear.

After a lifetime of studying this desert, and years of scrutinizing proposed legislation for national monuments and national park additions, I support Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s request that President Barack Obama consider designating these three carefully crafted national monuments.

These monuments would protect multiple centuries, even millennia, of visually stunning ancient plants such as juniper, nolina, yucca, and creosote that inspire photographers, poets, musicians, movie-makers, and streams of tourists to the desert. Each of these visitors leaves their own gift to the desert scene in the form of valuable eco-tourism dollars while creating inspirational images, poems, music, paintings, sculptures, movies, and shared stories that all add to the intriguing mystique of our California Desert.

We need places where we have all decided together to protect the darkness of the night sky, so we can see stars so bright that it seems we could touch them. We need to keep some big spaces in our cramped, packed lives; we need to create some quiet spaces in our loud lives, some magical spaces to counter the mundane. Some of these special spaces are waiting for us within the proposed Sand to Snow National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument.

Visit them. Protect them. Enjoy them. They will enchant you.

– Robin Kobaly is the executive director of The SummerTree Institute.

Source: The Desert Sun, 12/16/15