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Showing posts with the label Mojave Trails

National Monument Review Remains in the Shadows

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The Department of Interior told me today that its lawyers are reviewing whether or not they will release Secretary Ryan Zinke's report on the future of our national monuments in response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  It is absurd that a team of lawyers must decide whether or not the public has a right to know the results of a supposedly public review process, and Zinke's legally questionable recommendations to diminish our national monuments.  The Trump administration is concealing significant documents regarding the future of natural wonders and cultural treasures that were passed on to us by our ancestors, and that we count on sharing with the next generation.

Trump, Zinke and foes of public land protections have ironically claimed that the establishment of new national monuments has historically lacked transparency and sincere public outreach.  Yet Zinke only released a short summary of his recommendations that lacked specific details regarding which…

An Open Letter to Sate Senators Kevin de Leon and Ricardo Lara

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You know that the Trump administration is targeting California's people and places.  Rolling back regulations and undoing progressive policies.  It should come as no surprise to either of you that California's desert wildlands are also in the crosshairs.  Trump is considering reducing multiple national monuments in California; an unprecedented attempt to exploit wild places that we should be protecting and passing on to future generations.  It is within your power to counter one of Trump's assaults by simply allowing a vote on Assembly Bill 1000.  If you fail to do so, you should know that you break from at least a century of effort by Californians to protect our desert public lands. 

California's desert wildlands are among its greatest treasures.  And Californians have long fought to keep them that way.  Minerva Hoyt of Pasadena worked for years in the early 1900s to call attention to the destruction of California's desert, and eventually secured the designa…

Fight Back Against Potential Cuts to Mojave Trails National Monument

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Although Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's report to the President recommending significant cuts to a "handful" of national monuments remains secret, many people that appreciate desert wildlands are concerned that Mojave Trails National Monument is on the list.  That is because Congressman Paul Cook encouraged Zinke in June to remove protections from swaths of Mojave Trails  to accommodate the Cadiz company's plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year and sell it to an Orange County water district.  The Cadiz company owns a parcel of private land surrounded by the monument.  The proposal to cut the monument would open up a pathway for the company to build a pipeline to transport the water out of the desert; a plan hydrologists are concerned could dry up natural springs across a large portion of the Mojave.
If you are a California resident, please take a stand against this potential cut to Mojave Trails and follow this link to urge your state representatives to…

Monuments Make America Great

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We are all familiar with the swirl of controversy surrounding the designation of national monuments.  People hear that all roads in a new monument will be closed.  Recreation will be outlawed.  That monuments are only created to protect wildlife.  I wouldn't support national monuments, either, if that were true.

I don't just visit public lands to enjoy the wildlife that share the land with me.  I need lonely dirt roads that stretch over the horizon.   A remote campsite where I can relax with a beer in hand as the shadows of a mountain range creep across a wide valley at sunset.  I need monuments to keep the lights of the city far away, so I can see the the millions of stars above that remind me of my own insignificance in this universe.


Others visit monuments for activities I may not personally enjoy.  That's usually what sparks the debate that divides people who all equally love the land, but all have different ways of enjoying it. Some of us go rockhounding.  Others go h…

Amazing Desert Wildlands Receive Permanent Protection

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When I was young my grandparents took my brother, sister and me on a road trip from our home in the Victor Valley, California to their home in New Mexico, spending a night in Laughlin, Nevada on the way.  My exposure to the desert up until then was limited to the parcels of undeveloped private land scattered across the Victor Valley and surrounding its edges where my brother and I would play, spending most of our time in a 90 acre plot across the street from our home.  At the time, that corner of the desert seemed to offer endless opportunity for exploration, riding our bikes, finding lizards, identifying different wildflowers and insects, before even that lot was bulldozed for a new housing development. 

I remember staring out the window of my grandparent's car on that trip as we traversed Interstate 40, and eventually cutting up Highway 95 in Nevada to Laughlin, taking a dirt road that I think may have been Christmas Tree Pass.  I remember feeling endless amazement as the landsc…

Opposition to Monuments Based on Misinformation

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A majority of Californians have expressed support for three new monuments proposed for California's desert and under consideration by the President.  Voices opposing the designation of new national monuments, however, appear to be driven by misinformation and a distorted faith in Congress to act as a responsible steward of our wildlands.  They claim that conservation has run amok, that monument designations will lock out the public, and that only Congress should decide which lands to protect.

Tyrannical Conservation Designations?
The first claim - that conservation is some oppressive land management regime that has run amok - is relatively easy to dispute.  National Parks, monuments, and wilderness areas - wildlands that are protected from most types of industrial development - account for about 4% of the total land area of the United States.  With that number in mind, consider that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of wildlife species on Earth.  This is mostly dri…

Supervisor Lovingood Lays Out Hollow Case Against Monuments

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San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood traveled to Washington last week to testify against the potential establishment of national monuments in the California desert, but his concerns rang hollow.  His most concrete complaints centered on the prospects of a long-shuttered gold mine located over 70 miles from the nearest San Bernardino County city and owned by a Canadian company.  Lovingood's testimony reveals that his opposition to the monuments is politically motivated, rather than practically rooted and that he is out of touch with his constituents.

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 …

What are you doing on Tuesday?

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Now is our moment to protect public access to desert wildlands for future generations to enjoy.   Tuesday is an important opportunity to tell government officials that we cherish the vast open landscapes that the California desert has to offer.  Our presence will send a message that we are tired of losing public lands to private, for-profit destruction.  At stake will be the White House's consideration of the Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains and Sand-to-Snow National Monuments.  Without these monuments, our desert will transition from a humbling, natural landscape to an industrial checkerboard. 


The desert that early inhabitants experienced was a lot more expansive than the desert we know today, and if we don't take action now, our grandchildren will inherit a landscape unrecognizable to us and preserved only in our photographs.  Since 2009, dozens of square miles of our desert wildlands have been bulldozed and converted into energy projects and subdivisions. The alternative to…

Cook's Desert Bill is a Political Ransom Note

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A new bill introduced by Congressman Paul Cook would encourage the destruction of over 246 square miles of desert wildlands in exchange for widely supported conservation designations.  The bill - the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act - panders to harmful, for-profit uses of public lands, including in the heart of the Mojave Desert along Historic Route 66.

The bill appears to be an effort to counter the desert conservation and recreation legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein, who decided earlier this year to seek establishment of desert monuments through the Antiquities Act because of roadblocks in Congress.  Contrary to misinformation I have seen spread online, the monuments would not "restrict access" for people that enjoy and explore desert wildlands.  I say this as a person that uses designated routes to access remote areas of the desert for camping, hiking and photography.  Unlike the monument proposals, Cook's bill would promote th…

Senator Feinstein Reintroduces and Expands Desert Bill

Senator Feinstein this week introduced a revised version of her desert bill that would protect beautiful and remote stretches of the California desert while also setting the stage for significant land exchanges intended to allow for industrial development elsewhere in the state.  The bill would create two new national monuments, designate six new wilderness areas, and add acreage to existing national parks.   The new conservation areas would provide welcomed protection for over a million acres of desert wildlands that industry is eyeing for development.  However, the bill will also leave open the potential that new transmission lines will bisect the new monuments, and requires the Department of Interior to transfer nearly 370,000 acres of public lands elsewhere in California in exchange for parcels of land owned by the State of California that currently fall within the boundaries of desert wilderness, monuments and parks.

The bill is a reincarnation of the California Desert Protectio…

Desert Conservation Proposal Languishes in Washington

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A gridlocked Congress has sat on top of a proposal to conserve desert wildlands for two years now, and it appears that the only hope for Senator Feinstein's California Desert Protetion Act of 2011 (S. 138 - originally introduced in 2010) may be a Presidential designation under the Antiquities Act.   Although a Presidential monument designation is sure to draw fire from opponents, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been used by Republicans and Democrats alike to protect natural treasures and Congress' indecision over land stewardship is unlikely to be resolved soon.

Public lands are caught in a political spectrum that has trended toward destruction and away from conservation, with Utah Governor Herbert looking to seize treasured public lands and dole them out to private companies, and a Presidential candidate that wants to ramp up fossil fuel extraction in every corner of the country.

The Obama Administration's mark on desert wildlands so far has been regrettable  with a d…

Solar Company Targets Proposed Desert Monument for Industrial Development

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BrightSource Energy is considering another solar thermal facility in the Mojave Desert that, if approved, would fall within or immediately adjacent to the boundaries of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument.  The Monument was introduced in the California Desert Protection Act of 2011, and endorsed by the Obama Administration as lands deserving protection.  The project would be built on ecologically important desert habitat within view of the iconic Amboy Crater and Historic Route 66, and impact lands conserved and donated to the Department of Interior by the Wildlands Conservancy.
According to an interview with the Press-Enterprise, BrightSource Energy has already entered into talks with a utility company that would buy the electricity if the project is built.  The Bureau of Land Management, however, has not begun the environmental review process for the solar project, and as of late 2011 was under the impression that the project would be withdrawn.

BrightSource Energy's rig…

Update on the California Desert Protection Act of 2011

With over 1,000 square miles of destructive renewable energy projects proposed for public lands in California -- mostly in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts -- the California Desert Protection Act of 2011 (CDPA 2011, S.138) appears to be the most extensive proposal to spare desert lands from the prospect of unnecessary industrial development.   Senator Dianne Feinstein actually first proposed the legislation in 2010, but Congress was mired in protracted debate on other issues that year, including health care legislation and last minute deals to put in place a stop-gap budget deal.  Feinstein reintroduced CDPA in January this year, but we are days away from the end of another legislative calendar and the bill still has not moved beyond the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Congress is still deadlocked on spending issues.

For perspective, it took two years for Feinstein to get her last desert protection bill passed, which was signed in October 1994, and that was with …

Feinstein Proposes 2 national monuments in Mojave Desert

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According to an article in the LA Times (link below), Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed more details regarding her proposed legislation that would set aside additional Mojave Desert land for conservation as Mojave Trails National Monument and Sand to Snow National Monument.  The legislation would also establish current off-road vehicle areas as permanent.  Feinstein estimated that passage of the legislation would occur in late 2010 at the earliest, and the LA Times noted that the territory would include 19 areas sought after by energy companies for solar and wind development.


Based on the rough map posted with the LA Times article, it's not clear if the Ivanpah or Solar Energy One developments would be impacted by the proposed legislation. Separate legislation on solar energy by the Senator would add incentives for energy companies to consolidate "disturbed land" that is better suited for solar energy since it has less biological value.  Disturbed land is generally harder…