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Mission Statement

Friends of the Amargosa Basin

Supporting the Diversity of Life in the Amargosa Basin by Protecting its Land, Water and Beauty.

What is The Amargosa?

From its vital natural resources to its storied history, the Amargosa Basin is a truly special place. This beautiful desert landscape, nestled between Death Valley and the Mojave Natural Reserve, is home to diverse plant species, endemic and threatened wildlife, vibrant communities, and significant Native American and European history and culture. It is often called the crown jewel of the Mojave Desert because it also has a unique feature rarely found in the desert: a beautiful river supporting abundant resources and lively ecosystems. It is truly a place worth protecting for generations to come.

Why a National Monument?

Why monument status? In 1906, the Antiquities Act enabled the Executive Branch to establish national monuments throughout the country to protect and honor significant American landscapes. However, the creation of the National Conservation Lands System in 2000 dramatically changed the status of National Monuments within the Department of Interior. The mission of this new system was to “conserve, protect and restore these nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations.” The current designation of public lands in the Amargosa Basin, such as a Wild and Scenic River, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, a National Historic Trail and National Conservation Areas, mean they are already part of the National Conservation Lands system(with the exception of private property as the National Conservations Lands system has no authority over privately owned lands). As valuable as these individual public land designations are, the context in which they are found gives added meaning to the land and its history. Designating the Amargosa Basin as a National Monument would ensure a holistic management plan that would impart this broader perspective. It is time to take this step and grant the entire Amargosa Basin national monument status, a step that would honor, protect, and enhance the land and its people.

Map of the Proposed Amargosa Basin National Monument

Proposed ABNM Map

Photo credit:  Sarah Paz Hyde

Amargosa Basin National Monument Prospectus

Who We Are

The Friends of the Amargosa Basin, a nonprofit organization with 501c3 status, was incorporated with the primary goal of achieving monument status for the Amargosa Basin. Although monument status is the primary goal, the organization is also an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting these lands.

Board Of Directors

Susan Sorrells, President

Susan SorrellsSusan Sorrells grew up in Shoshone, California as a member of the Fairbanks Brown pioneer family. She graduated from Smith College and after college worked for Senator Kuchel in Washington, DC under the direction of Leon Panetta. This position led to a job as a community worker for the Cornerstone Project in Atlanta, Georgia. She left Georgia for the Peace Corps and worked as a school teacher and community worker in Liberia, West Africa. She then attended UCLA where she got a Master’s Degree in African Studies. After living in Europe for several years she returned to her home in Shoshone. She has been involved in many conservation groups and was the founding member and president of the Amargosa Conservancy. She also was the founding member and wrote the grant for the establishment of Death Valley Health Center. In addition, she was the founding member and president of the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Shoshone Museum. She, and her husband, own and operate the town of Shoshone. Their goals are to integrate nature and wildlife into the “development” of the village. Their strategy for economic sustainability is developing and promoting ecotourism.

Lee Adams, Vice President

Lee AdamsLee Adams is a founding member of the Lake Tecopa Yacht Club and a lifetime member of the Death Valley Natural History Association.  With a seasonal cabin outside Shoshone, Lee lives in the Sierra County gold rush era community Downieville and currently serves on the Sierra County Board of Supervisors.  He previously served as the Sierra County Sheriff from 1988 to 2007.   In June of 2018 he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as a member of the State Historical Resources Commission.  His husband, Stuart Lauters, serves on the board of the Shoshone Museum.

Leonard S. Warren, Treasurer

Leonard S. WarrenLen Warren has been studying birds along the Amargosa since 2009 as a nest searcher for Point Blue Conservation Sciences, formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory. Currently employed by The Nature Conservancy as the Amargosa River Project Manager, he implements habitat restoration projects. Known for giving bird walks along Amargosa, Len loves to photograph and paint birds. His passion is to teach and talk about future of birds in the area.

Darrel S. Cowan, Secretary

Darrel S. CowanDarrel S. Cowan was born and grew up in Los Angeles. He’s sure that his love for all things desert germinated on the weekend trips with his family to Death Valley and Joshua Tree, and all over the Mojave to look for geodes. He received his BS and PhD in geology from Stanford University and spent my first professional career as an exploration geologist in Shell Oil Company from 1971 to 1974. I accepted a faculty position in the University of Washington, where I am currently a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Earth & Space Sciences. I am a field geologist:  I’ve studied rocks in mountain belts worldwide to reconstruct geological history. Although I had visited the Death Valley region as a kid and college student several times, I began serious research there in the early 1990’s. Death Valley itself is a world-class example of how Earth’s crust is being actively stretched or extended. Normal faults are responsible, and our current project involves looking for small earthquakes that would be evidence for active normal faulting. I still bring my senior-level classes to the region, including the Amargosa Basin, to study the exemplary geologic record extending from about 1.7 billion years ago to the present day.