By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - US President Joe Biden designated two sweeping areas in the American southwest as new national monuments Tuesday, just a week after allowing drilling to go ahead in Alaska.
Assigning national monument status to the Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain, in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas creates hundreds of thousands of new acres of land that will receive federal protections. No development will now be allowed at either location.
The Spirit Mountain location accounts for about 500,000 acres of land and is revered by the native Mojave tribe. The site in Texas will account for an additional 6,672 acres.
"When we conserve our country’s natural gifts, we’re not just protecting the livelihoods of people who depend on them -- like the family farms, outdoor recreation businesses, rural communities welcoming visitors across -- from all across the country and around the world that matter," Biden said at a White House summit on conservation action at the Interior Department.
"We’re protecting the heart and the soul of our national pride. We’re protecting pieces of history, our -- telling our story that will be told for generations upon generations to come," he added.
His decision last week to approve a massive oil drilling project in northern Alaska stands in stark contrast to his actions and words Tuesday, however. As the president delivered his remarks, protesters outside the building denounced him for approving the controversial Willow Project last week.
Critics maintain that decision imperils Biden's climate legacy.
The ConocoPhillips project is expected to produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day in what climate activists have described as a "carbon bomb."
"Willow is a project out of time. With science demanding an end to fossil fuels, this locks in decades more dependence on oil. With the climate crisis worsening by the day, this has the same yearly carbon footprint of roughly 1.1 million homes—more than are in Chicago," said Christy Goldfuss, a former Obama administration official who now works for the Natural Resources Defense Council.