Bill would expand Death Valley, Joshua Tree and protect lands for recreation, tourism and wildlife
MOJAVE DESERT – Businesses, community leaders and military vets are endorsing Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to protect about 1.6 million acres of spectacular desert lands because it will preserve one of America’s most treasured landscapes of the Old West and also boost the local economy.
The proposed legislation from Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), the California Desert Protection Act of 2011 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 create several new wilderness areas, and protect important waterways like the Amargosa River and Deep Creek as Wild and Scenic Rivers
“Visitors from around the world come here to visit Route 66, to experience our sand dunes, Joshua Tree forests and wildflowers because our scenery is unique in all the world,” said Marcia Bond, General Manager of Barstow’s Hampton Inn. “But to keep visitors coming, we have to ensure these incredible lands and their rich cultural heritage are still here for them to experience.”
It is estimated that outdoor recreationists spend more than $230 million annually visiting the region, according to data from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The California desert is one of the top outdoor recreation locations in the continental United States and its national parks alone bring nearly three million visitors each year.
The desert region’s timeless and iconic appeal includes sacred Native American sites, pioneer trails and Route 66, which Smithsonian Magazine named as one of the ‘10 Must-See Endangered Cultural Treasures.’
These landmarks of America’s past resonate with many veterans who fought to preserve our American legacy.
“When you are in the military, you know you are serving your family, your home and your nation and these lands are a reminder of why we love our country,” said Ray Quinto, a Calimesa resident for more than 33 years and a retired US Navy Captain from the Vietnam War. “Right here, this is “America the Beautiful.” And it would be a shame if it doesn’t stay that way for future generations.”
“As a lifelong resident, it’s more important than ever to know that the best parts of this state - like the desert - are still part of the California dream,” said Ron Loveridge, Riverside Mayor and immediate past Chair of the National League of Cities. “But to make that a reality, we need this bill because it uses smart land use planning to preserve the desert’s best recreation areas and essential green space for our cities.”
While local leaders are widely supportive of Senator Feinstein’s leadership and dedication to conserving California’s desert, many would like to see improvements to provisions of the bill related to off-road vehicle use and removing protection for Wilderness Study Areas.
Senator Feinstein’s reintroduced legislation does not include provisions for renewable energy that were in her 2010 bill. Many energy project siting issues were recently handled administratively by the federal Department of the Interior. Other issues are being addressed by a new federal Bureau of Land Management office here and California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.
Natural and Cultural Treasure
From painted mountains to hidden springs, from world-famous wildflowers to herds of majestic bighorn sheep, Americans have long been drawn to the stark beauty of California’s desert.
But the desert is being squeezed by two of the fastest growing regions in the nation, putting those resources and the economic opportunities they create at risk.
In addition to Route 66, the Desert Protection Act will also help preserve the Pacific Crest Trail and critical wildlife corridors and habitat for many species, including the endangered desert tortoise.
The Campaign for the California Desert
More than 100 cities, Indian nations, businesses, community groups and organizations are working to preserve the California desert for future generations. The Campaign is also working to support passage of Sen. Feinstein’s desert bill. For more information go to: www.californiadesert.org
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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