Regional Leaders Express Support for the California Desert Protection Act as it Heads to May 20 Senate Hearing

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 19, 2010
Contact:   Andrea De Leon, 909-936-6210 (cell), andrea@inlandstrategiesgroup.com


Regional Leaders Express Support for the California Desert Protection Act as it Heads to May 20 Senate Hearing

Community, business, and conservation leaders from the California desert region are expressing support and optimism that an important regional conservation measure will take a significant step forward in Congress.

Tomorrow (May 20th) the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources will hear testimony from diverse stakeholders about the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) of 2010, introduced by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein last December. This bill would protect approximately 1.6 million acres of desert landscapes celebrated for their contributions to America’s natural and cultural heritage and to the regional economy.

The CDPA of 2010 (S. 2921) would create two new national monuments—the Mojave Trails and the Sand to Snow National Monuments—and expand Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve. It would also designate several new wilderness areas, expanding existing wilderness areas and protect important waterways such as the Whitewater River, Deep Creek, and the Amargosa River as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

“The California Desert Protection Act would preserve the natural beauty of our home for future generations while also creating much-needed business and tourism opportunities now,” said Karen Lowe, President of the Morongo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The CDPA of 2010 would also protect historic Route 66, a cultural treasure and magnet for tourists. “Visitors come from across the country and around the world to experience Route 66, its history, and our unique desert landscape,” explained Jim Conkle, chair of the Route 66 Alliance. “This bill will preserve an important link to our past while also investing in our future.”

Veterans also back the bill. “The desert offers vast beauty and peaceful solitude,” said David E. Raley, Colonel, USAF (Ret.). “When our Veterans and active duty colleagues stationed here need to get away from the daily pressures, they frequent the desert to hunt, hike and relax after duty.”

While local leaders are widely supportive of Senator Feinstein’s leadership and dedication to conserving California’s desert, some would like to see improvements to provisions of the bill related to off-road vehicle use, new rights-of-way on National Monuments, and removing protection for Wilderness Study Areas.

“I applaud the Senator’s longstanding leadership and commitment to protecting the jewels of our desert,” said Jim Dodson, retired deputy comptroller of Edwards Air Force Base. “I do have concerns that new areas of the desert could be opened up to off-road vehicle damage. Meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders is a delicate process and I am hopeful that these issues can be addressed as the bill moves forward.”

BALANCED BILL THAT FACILITATES RENEWABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

The CDPA of 2010 also facilitates renewable energy development by expediting wind and solar projects on private land, establishing Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices focused specifically on renewable energy development, and directing the military to study renewable energy potential on their unused disturbed lands.

The bill also leaves available suitable lands for California to meet its renewable energy commitments. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently assessing the suitability of 351,000 acres in the California desert for potential renewable energy development, significantly more than experts estimate is needed to meet state renewable goals. None of the lands in Senator Feinstein’s proposal are within these BLM study areas.

“I hope the hearing demonstrates how balanced this legislation is, that it allows for the needs of conservation, renewable energy, recreation, and the military. It provides certainty for all stakeholders and a legacy for the future,” said Fred Bell, Chief Operating Officer of Noble & Company, a desert-based renewable energy company focused on wind and solar power generation.

For more information about Campaign for the California Desert, visit www.CaliforniaDesert.org.

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