Policy Update Jan 24, 2017

Position on S.32, California Desert Protection and Recreation Act

NPCA submitted the following position to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

NPCA supports Senator Feinstein’s recently introduced legislation, S.32, California Desert Protection and Recreation Act requests that the legislation be recommended for mark-up.

The California desert is world renowned for its vast and scenic landscapes. It is home to five iconic national park sites (Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, Castle Mountains National Monument, and Manzanar National Historic Site), two National Park Service-managed National Historic Trails (Juan Bautista De Anza and the Old Spanish Trail) and many famous Bureau of Land Management national monuments and wilderness areas. The California desert is home to a spectacular diversity of natural resources and geologic features including sand dunes, natural limestone cave systems, lava flows and lava tubes, rugged desert mountains, forests of Joshua trees and yucca, cactus gardens, multi-colored mountains, wild and scenic rivers, and even stone arches and hoodoos.

This rich landscape has long drawn residents from urban areas to the California desert, and increasingly, visitors from around the world come to enjoy the desert’s open spaces, welcoming communities, and spectacular natural resources. A recent Sonoran Institute report estimated that the California desert hosted as many as seven million visits to its public lands in 2015. Joshua Tree National Park alone recorded 2.4 million visitors in 2015, up from 1.6 million in 2014 making these public lands a significant economic engine for desert counties. In fact, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Mojave combined to contribute 295 million dollars to California desert economies and communities.

Senator Feinstein proposes a thoughtful balance of responsible land-use management and opportunities for recreation and conservation. This bill, and her efforts, enjoy tremendous grassroots support from local communities of recreationists, businesses and industry, faith-based groups, local tribes, and chambers of commerce. NPCA has worked in partnership with these local communities, elected officials, and stakeholders on California desert legislation since 2009 and will continue to work on protecting, connecting, and enhancing this vital landscape and tourism economy.

We applaud Senator Feinstein for reintroducing S.32 to speak to the components of her legislation which are yet to be accomplished. Considering the profound existing support that these provisions have earned and their longstanding record in the Senate (since 2009), we believe they deserve the opportunity to be marked-up.