Lovingood Picks a Battle Over Castle Mountains
Most San Bernardino County residents would fall in love with the Castle Mountains if they saw them. But Supervisor Lovingood's testimony suggests he has a different vision for this remote stretch of the county. Lovingood expressed concern to officials in Washington that the nearby Castle Mountain gold mine may have difficulty operating if a desert monument is established around this portion of Joshua tree-studded wildlands. The monument proposal would not impede mine operations, according to the Senate, but Lovingood worries that the monument would scare away the mine's international investors and a chance at 300 jobs and $250 million in tax revenue. Lovingood failed to mention that the tax revenue would be unreliable and that the jobs would probably go to Nevada, not San Bernardino County residents.
Congressman Paul Cook's opposition to the desert monuments, yet San Bernardino County acknowledges that mining jobs accounted for approximately a tenth of one percent of the county's employment in 2014. And even if the Castle Mountain mine's Canadian owners can wrangle the millions of dollars it needs from investors to resume operations, its remote location probably will draw workers from Nevada, not California. The mine is located between the Nevada town of Primm and the California town of Needles. Needles has a population of less than 5,000 people and is located over 70 miles from the mine. The next nearest California city is Barstow, over 130 miles away. You'll spend the money you earn at the mine on the gas it takes to get there.
The gold mine's proponents seem to be chasing a quick buck. Gold prices are just now rising but could drop yet again, leaving the mine closed and workers out of a job. Lovingood is pinning up the mine as some economic hope when it is barely more than a mirage. Nonetheless, the Senate has worked with the mining company to ensure that the monument proposal would not affect its operations. The mine could begin operations today, if it so desired. And even if it does, I bet most of the workers will be from Nevada, and most of the money will flow to Toronto.
Passing the Buck on Road Repairs
Passing the buck for his own leadership failures, Lovingood stated that the monument proposals would make it difficult to repair county roads and that the Department of Interior has a long list of deferred maintenance that impacts county transportation.
|The stretch of Route 66 in San Bernardino County represents one of the most pristine segments of this historic road, coursing through desert wildlands that are preserved as earlier generations experienced them early last century. The route courses through an area rich with history, from Native American cultural sites, the experiences of economic refugees in the Great Depression, and where Patton trained his troops for World War II.|
|The County is responsible for repairs to Route 66, but has failed to do so for over a year on a 30+ mile portion of the Mother Road. County Supervisor Lovingood has no excuse for this failure. Image from San Bernardino County.|
Lovingood also complains that the Federal government has not been able to pay for maintainance on roads and infrastructure within existing national parks. This is indeed a problem, but Lovingood seems to forget that Congress controls Federal spending. He could have spent his time in Washington asking Congress to properly fund the Department of Interior. Cutting a fraction of tax loopholes that allow corporations to do their banking in the Cayman Islands would quickly fill any funding shortfalls for our national parks, and much more.
Time for Leadership
It is time for San Bernardino County's leaders to shepherd the economy into a sustainable future and not drag it into an outdated past. Mining is a big part of San Bernardino County's history, but it is not a big part of our modern economy. San Bernardino County's website contains images of mining activities and the most recent image on the website (below) is from 1919. Even if the county posted more recent photos, its own reports acknowledge that mining now constitutes a mere fraction of one percent of the county's employment.
|A photo of miners from 1919. Image from San Bernardino County website.|
It is not too late for Lovingood to step up to the plate and represent his District. It should not be difficult. Nature has blessed San Bernardino County with an increasingly rare treasure - peaceful, pristine open space. Let's manage this space responsibly for future generations.