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Showing posts with the label S.2921

Glimmer of Hope for the Desert Bill

The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would combine several land and water conservation bills into one package--called an omnibus bill--and putting it up for a vote before Congress concludes business at the end of the year.  Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, S. 2921) could be a part of the omnibus bill.  If CDPA 2010 is not included, or if the omnibus bill never materializes, the proposed National Monuments in California's Mojave and Sonoran deserts may never receive protected status.

As a recap for those not familiar with the bill,  CDPA 2010 would balance conservation of natural areas and preservation of recreation opportunities by establishing:
Mojave Trails National Monument: 941,413 acres of Mojave Desert along Historic Route 66 and the southern boundary of the Mojave National Preserve.  Many of the valleys in this area were proposed for industrial development, and could still be vulnerable to destructive uses if th…

Urge Legislators to Pass Wilderness Protections Now

My last post highlighted two pieces of legislation currently stuck in Congressional committees that could improve conditions in California's deserts.  I previously assessed that the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) was unlikely to see a full vote before the Senate and House before the end of the legislative calendar in November.   However, I just read analysis by Politico--a publication that closely follows trends on the Hill--that suggests a Republican turnover in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee could severely limit opportunities to protect western wilderness over the next few years.

Unfortunately, one of the misguided themes in recent political activism is that concern for the environment and protecting open space is synonymous with "big government" and "socialism".  The political figures that oppose environmental protections ironically boast of their patriotism and faith in God as reasons to allow private interests free …

Congress Back in Session Next Week...

...and there are a couple of proposed bills that could benefit desert conservation and promote sensible land management.


California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010)
We will see if Senator Feinstein is able to push CDPA 2010 (S.2921) beyond the Committee stage and out for a full vote before Congress.  Congress only has until November to get this done, but the pace of industrial development impacting public lands requires sensible land management policy.  CDPA 2010 would preserve desert lands for the public to enjoy without affecting energy development elsewhere in California's desert.  Kevin from Basin and Range Watch noted in a previous comment on this blog, however, that the bill would release some wilderness study areas, making them vulnerable to energy development.  I know some of these study areas would ultimately be included in one of the two national monuments that the bill would create, but it's not clear to me how much of the areas would be lost (welcome commen…

Governor Dismisses Mojave Wilderness; CDPA 2010 Left Out of Recent Committee Action

You heard it here already -- the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, or S. 2921) was going to face a lot of hurdles this year, and its chances of making it out of the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources were slim.  However, I found it frustrating to read today that the Senate Committee delivered 18 bills and may deliver another 11 before the Senate recess in August.  CDPA 2010 was not among this list of bills for delivery.  Given the broad support that CDPA 2010 receives from communities, recreation enthusiasts and even energy companies, it was still surprising that CDPA 2010 was not included on the Senate Committee's list of business before August recess.   After Congress resumes business in September, there will not be much time left to conduct legislative business, further reducing the chances that CDPA 2010 will be passed this year.

Meanwhile, the Governor of California mocked the need to protect threatened and endangered species--to include the …

What Next for the California Desert Protection Act?

The mid-May Senate hearing for the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921) was a positive step for the legislation proposed by Senator Feinstein, considering most proposed legislation never makes it beyond the committee.   However, the hearings revealed technical objections from government agencies and some deeper concerns expressed by fellow Senators on the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources.   As noted in a previous post, the legislative calendar and political dynamics outside of California could eclipse the need for near-term sensible land management in the Mojave Desert, and CDPA may not even get the attention it deserves until next year. 

If Senator Feinstein's office can work with the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture to quickly incorporate the technical modifications sought by these agencies during the hearings, the Senator will still face more hurdles before the bill can be put to the full Senate before Congr…

Ranking Member of Senate Committee Guards Energy Companies

Reviewing the transcripts from the 20 May Senate hearing on the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921),  the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource's opening comments struck me as ill-informed, and as knee-jerk opposition that assumes the effort to protect public land is somehow more reckless than the chaotic "gold rush" effort by energy companies to bulldoze pristine Mojave wilderness.  In her comments, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) stated that the proposed legislation would "encumber" renewable energy development and take land off the table before the government had a chance to determine whether or not it would be suitable for renewable energy development.

Murkowski's argument was flawed for a few reasons:
1.) CDPA 2010's proposed national monuments and wilderness areas donot affect the Department of Energy's solar energy study zones, which are the only lands currently being evaluated by the Federa…

Department of Defense and Veteran Speak Out in Favor of Preserving California Desert Wilderness

A San Bernardino Sun opinion piece authored by a veteran that does not want to see his country's natural heritage bulldozed for hastily considered industrial development is included at the bottom of this post.  As I have noted in previous posts, the Mojave Desert has inspired generations of Americans, including the droves of US service members who have trained here.

Ironically, some of the opponents of Senator Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921) claim that efforts to protect desert wilderness from industrial development could also hinder the Department of Defense's ability to adequately prepare our troops.  (for an example, read here)  I think this claim is probably a cheap way to veil some policymaker's attempts to protect energy companies' attempts to develop public lands, rather than preserve DoD's efforts to maintain national security.

You can take a look at the testimony presented by the DoD at the CDPA 2010 hearing b…

Webcast May Be Available for CDPA 2010 Hearing; No Witnesses Scheduled Yet

According to the website for the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is conducting a hearing on 20 May to consider Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921), the Committee currently does not have any witnesses lined up to testify for or against the legislation.   Obviously this could change over the next couple of weeks and I'll keep you posted.

It appears that the Committee regularly provides live webcasts--or at least archived webcasts--of its hearings.  Although this means West Coasters will need to wake up at 6:30AM, it will spare you the flight to DC!    Here is the link for the Committee website and you can find the "live webcast" button on the right side of their page at the bottom of the list of options.

For more information about the California Desert Protection Act--which aims to balance conservation of America's desert wilderness, and streamline renewable energy generation--che…