CDPA 2010: Product of NIMBY Environmentalists?

One of the dynamics that will inevitably unfold over the next year--assuming Senator Feinstein is able to get her proposed California Desert Protection Act 2010 before Congress for a vote--will be opponent's attempts to frame CDPA 2010 as the product of Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) environmentalists looking to shut out economic development. Read about early signs of opposition here.

The portrayal of Feinstein's legislation by opponents almost certainly will over-simplify the field of stakeholders by labeling what is actually a diverse array of opinions as stubborn NIMBY environmentalists.  Although you can count this blogger as an early supporter of the legislation's intent, I hope you never read anything on this blog that over-simplifies the arguments against CDPA 2010...if you do, call me out on it.

The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (which established Mojave National Preserve, and designated Joshua Tree and Death Valley as National Parks) provides a useful case study for issues that may arise during debate over CDPA 2010, since the 1994 legislation attracted a spectrum of opinions among those that truly respect the Mojave.  High Country News wrote a good article a few years following the creation of the Mojave National Preserve about how the park was received and how it matched with people's expectations.  Some private landowners on or adjacent to the Preserve initially opposed any Federal designation fearing crowds of visitors and land use restrictions that would harm their desert lifestyle.  Others feared the legislation was inadequate to preserve the Mojave from off-road recreation, grazing, and other uses.  All told, the 1994 legislation passed despite harsh opposition because a the final legislation was able to protect the interests of various stakeholders, to include ranchers and hunters.

Already concerns about CDPA 2010 reflect the 1994 debate, as renewable energy proponents fear the legislation could harm the industry in its infant years,  many conservation groups applauded the proposal, while others believe the legislation may not go far enough in protecting the Mojave since it may allow for a lot of currently existing land uses--such as hunting, grazing, and existing energy rights of way--and also reduces the size of some wilderness areas.  At the end of the day, the field of voices in the debate around CDPA 2010 does not include a monolithic NIMBY monster opposed to any and all development, but a conglomeration of people who want what the Mojave has to offer.  The goal of CDPA 2010 should ensure that the country can enjoy and utilize the Mojave well into the future.


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