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July 20, 2019

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Obama designates Nevada’s Basin and Range as national monument

Obama National Monuments

Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation / AP

This undated photo provided by Triple Aught Foundation shows part of an artwork by Michael Heizer called “City” near Garden Valley, Nev. Mammoth bones, the prehistoric rock carvings and more than a million acres of wilderness will be protected as part of three new national monuments that President Barack Obama is creating in California, Nevada and Texas and announced Friday, July 10, 2015.

A historic expanse of land about two hours from Las Vegas is getting a new title: national monument.

In a White House announcement late Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the designation of three new national monuments including the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, about 700,000 acres of public land with wildlife, petroglyphs and a large land-art project.

The area has been the target of a preservation campaign by Nevadans including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who introduced the Garden Valley Withdrawal Act in September to try to protect the area.

Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman released a statement earlier this year dealing with the possible establishment of the area as a national monument.

"No area is as uniquely Nevada as is the Basin and Range," the statement said. "It deserves protection so our children and grandchildren and the generations of Nevadans to follow can experience one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

The White House release echoed the sentiment.

"The area tells the story of a rich cultural tradition, from the earliest human inhabitants 13,000 years ago to miners and ranchers in the past century," the release said.

The establishment as a national monument still allows for the land to be used for livestock grazing and military purposes, the release said.

The area, which will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management, includes artist Michael Heizer's work "City," a large sculpture consisting of abstract structures resembling buildings in an ancient city.

Heizer has been working on the sculpture since 1972.

Berryessa Snow Mountain in California and Waco Mammoth in Texas were also designated as monuments, the White House release said.

Obama has established or expanded 19 national monuments since taking office.

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents have broad authority to designate historic or ecologically significant sites without congressional approval, protecting those areas from new development like mining, oil wells and grazing.

Obama has used that authority aggressively as he's worked to secure a legacy of protecting the environment and warding off the effects of climate change. Earlier this year, Obama designated new monuments in Hawaii, Illinois and Colorado, and last year he expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to cover 490,000 square miles, making it the largest marine preserve in the world.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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