Story by Linda Castro (Assistant Policy Director)
I went on a work trip to Washington D.C. last month. I hadn’t been to D.C. since before the Covid pandemic began. I wondered if much had changed, as the airplane began its descent into Ronald Reagan Airport. The taxi ride from the airport to my hotel – something akin to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Walt Disney World®) with blasts of diesel fumes and a few shouts from my taxi driver to the other vehicles on the road, such as, “It’s a freeway – you’re not supposed to stop!” soon made me realize that it was the same ol’ D.C.
I was in D.C. to meet with staff members of California Representatives and Senators, the Department of Interior, and the Council on Environmental Quality to discuss why CalWild supports the designation of the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument and the expansion of Joshua Tree National Park. The first morning, as we headed off to the Congressional Office buildings, the temperature was cold and crisp. I marveled at the bright colors of the trees that were beginning to display their autumn colors – something I don’t get to see all that often where I live in southern California. I thought about how lucky I was to be in D.C. at this time of year and how lucky I was to be there in general. Things would only get better.
The next two fast-paced days entailed back-to-back meetings with others who had come to D.C. for the same reason. Our group included the President and two Tribal Councilmembers of the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe, the Secretary of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, the Mayor of Indio, a Desert Hot Springs City Councilmember, and a few other members of our coalition, including two youth ambassadors. As I listened to everyone share about why they cared about these lands and supported the designation of the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument, I couldn’t help but smile. Even though we all came from different backgrounds, with different interests and motivations, we all spoke with one voice in support of this important Monument designation. The voices that personally moved me the most were those of the Quechan President and Councilmembers, who spoke passionately of the importance of these lands. One of the most thrilling parts of the trip for me personally, was when I was able to meet Representative Katie Porter, who represents the 47th Congressional District in Orange County. Rep. Porter was welcoming and witty. She even joked about her famous whiteboard, which she frequently uses as a teaching tool during congressional hearings. Most importantly, she was supportive of our proposal. Overall, this was one of the best D.C. fly-ins I’ve ever experienced in my almost ten years with CalWild.
Please take action and sign the petition below to protect Chuckwalla as a National Monument and expand Joshua Tree!