Edvard Pettersson

(CN) — President Joe Biden on Thursday expanded two national monuments in California, adding 120,000 acres of protected land that the White House said contain spectacular cultural, geological, and ecological resources.

“As a U.S. Senator from California, I fought to defend and grow our public lands protections, including by introducing legislation to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement. “Thanks to President Biden’s leadership and the dedicated organizing of advocates throughout my home state, we are making that a reality by protecting an additional 120,000 acres of lands that are culturally, ecologically, and historically important to California and our nation."

In Southern California, the administration is expanding the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument with 106,00 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands to the south and west of its current 346,000-acre footprint. The national monument in the mountains north of Los Angeles was first created in 2014 by President Barack Obama.

The expansion adds unique geological and ecological features of the area to the monument, the White House said, including unusual canyons, chaparral and coastal sage scrub lands, riparian woodlands, and conifer forests. The added land also provides habitats to some of California’s most imperiled and iconic birds, including the endangered California condor.

The landscape within the expansion area has historically sustained Indigenous peoples, and their descendants are part of Tribal Nations and other Indigenous peoples in the region whose members continue to use the area for ceremonial purposes, as well as for collecting traditional plants important for basketry, food, and medicine, the White House said.

In Northern California, the administration is adding 14,000 acres to the 330,000-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, which was originally designated by President Obama in 2015.

The expansion area includes a portion of Walker Ridge that was outside the original monument. The ridge will be renamed Molok Luyuk, meaning Condor Ridge in the language of the Patwin people to whom the 11-mile north-to-south ridgeline is sacred.

The ridge is dotted with a mosaic of unique geologic and hydrologic features and flanked by iconic California chaparral-covered canyons, oak and cypress woodlands, and spring-fed meadows, the White House said.

There are nearly 500 native California plant species within the expansion area, including at least 38 different special-status plants. Molok Luyuk also serves as a wildlife corridor for species such as tule elk, mountain lions, and bears, and it is home to iconic species such as bald and golden eagles.

The Biden-Harris Administration has already conserved more than 41 million acres of lands and waters, according to the White House, putting President Biden on track to conserve more of the environment than any president in history.

The expansions only reserve federal lands and do not affect the property rights of state or private land owners. Any existing state or private lands within the boundaries are not included in the monuments.

Biden is using his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the additional areas of the national monuments by proclamation. The law was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and has since been used by 18 U.S. presidents to proclaim additional national monuments, including the Statue of Liberty, Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients, and the Grand Canyon.