Springtime Recreation in the California Desert

Date:   April 20, 2006
Contact:   Deborah DeMeo, National Parks Conservation Association, 760-366-7785, Cell: 760-799-5911
Kelli Holsendolph, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3311

Springtime Recreation in the California Desert

Conservation Group Publishes FREE Field Guide on Responsible Recreation

Joshua Tree, CA – The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today made available a new field guide to the diversity of recreational opportunities in the California desert for visitors. The free guide and accompanying map offers guidelines for enjoying outdoor activities on public lands responsibly.

"This field guide showcases the dynamic array of recreation possibilities available to public lands users in the California desert," said NPCA California Field Representative Deborah DeMeo. "I encourage visitors and residents alike to try a new pursuit this spring, grow closer in their appreciation of the outdoors, and recreate responsibly."

Through a series of personal profiles, NPCA’s new guide, Variety and Adventure in the California Desert: A Guide to Responsible Recreation, illustrates the variety of recreational pursuits available to desert public lands users and offers guidelines on how to enjoy these activities responsibly. From hiking and backpacking to caving to hunting and fishing to OHV/off-roading, desert public lands users share their reflections about their favorite outdoor pursuits and offer guidance on how to enjoy the region’s public lands in a respectful manner that ensures these places are available for generations of visitors to enjoy.

"The desert is a magical place," Jeff Bairelein’s report profile as a hiker and backpacker in Joshua Tree National Park notes. "The open vistas and wonderful starry nights give desert explorers a spiritual renewal."

Each year, millions of local, national and international visitors venture into the desert and the communities that surround the desert’s public lands benefit from these visitors’ interest in desert recreation. NPCA’s 2005 State of the Parks report on the California Desert Parks indicates visitors to Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks and Mojave National Preserve spent $94.8 million in 2003 in surrounding communities during trips to those parks. However, despite the enormous benefits public lands and outdoor pursuits bring to the region, the challenges of protecting these treasured places remain.

"Lack of funding to promote the diversity of recreational opportunities in the desert, provide visitors with quality services, and educate visitors about responsible recreation practices unfortunately put national parks and other public lands at undue risk," said DeMeo. "Several members of California’s Congressional delegation, including Senator Feinstein, have sponsored innovative legislation—the National Park Centennial Act—to help meet the funding challenges crippling our national parks. This legislation is a step in the right direction toward providing the critical investment our public lands desperately need."

As noted in the field guide, public land managers and recreational planners are hampered by limited funding and unable to get the word out about the variety of desert recreation opportunities available. Funding shortfalls are also noticeably leading to a decline in visitor services especially in the desert’s national parks where too few law enforcement and interpretive rangers leave visitors with little confidence that pursuing their recreational adventures can be done safely. Furthermore, with many recreational facilities at public sites in the desert at maximum capacity on weekends, limited funding prevents adequate staffing levels to enforce regulations or educate visitors about responsible recreation. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee underscores the validity of the critical funding challenges facing the national parks. GAO researchers found that park managers are reducing services including, "reducing visitor center hours, educational programs, and law enforcement operations."

NPCA calls on Congress to pass the National Park Centennial Act, which would provide new funding for national parks to address these critical funding needs of the parks.

Download a free copy of Variety and Adventure in the California Desert: A Guide to Responsible Recreation or contact NPCA California Desert Field Representative Deborah DeMeo at 760-366-7785.

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