Who Owns 618 Million Acres of U.S. Wildlands? You Do!

Guess who owns 618 million acres of American wildlands? You!

 

You own red-rock canyons and turquoise rivers. Desert plains and jagged mountain peaks. You own Arctic tundra, southern wildflower fields and cool northern forests.

 

50th Anniversary of Wilderness Act

 

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the national Wilderness Act the Sierra Club had special guest speakers and presentations during its hosting of the annual California Wilderness Coalition meeting. The event took place at the Victor Valley Museum on Wednesday, February 12, and brought together many local conservation organizations from the High Desert of Southern California.

 

Another presentation was given by Monica Argandona, PhD, and Laurel Williams from the California Wilderness Coalition. They went through the 50 year history of the Wilderness Act, and then moved on to another important issue: The California Desert Protection Act. Senator Dianne Feinstein is pushing to get this bill passed, as it will protect some of the West’s most beautiful and fragile sights.
Feinstein, who has served as Senator from California since 1992, has long been a champion of desert protection. In 1994, after taking up the mantle from her predecessor Alan Cranston, she shepherded the California Desert Protection Act through Congress. It was ultimately signed into law by Bill Clinton.
The act was a sweeping piece of conservation legislation, protecting seven million acres of desert, including establishing Mojave National Preserve, upgrading the status of Death Valley and Joshua Tree from Monuments to Parks, and establishing 63 desert wilderness areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Feinstein describes a different way forward for desert solar. She envisions development being concentrated on previously degraded private lands, rather than what she describes as “pristine” desert lands.
Many of those who originally warned that the California Desert Protection Act would sacrifice their way of life to an environmentalist utopia have changed sides. They have become allies in Feinstein’s quest to create one of the biggest environmental legacies in California history. The new bill to protect over a million acres ringing the national parks at Death Valley and Joshua Tree and the Mojave National Preserve.

The Act will protect these wildlands for generations of visitors. If passed, this bill would create or expand:
Mojave Trails National Monument – This new national monument would bridge Joshua Tree National Park to the Mojave National Preserve. Its 941,000 acres would include: Pisgah lava flow; Amboy Crater; Kelso Dunes wilderness; and Route 66.

Sand to Snow National Monument –

 

The area of the proposed Sand to Snow Monument includes Joshua trees, granite peaks and desert tortoise habitat. It would be increased by more than 2,800 northern acres, stretching from the Coachella Valley desert floor to the forested peak of Mount San Gorgonio, Southern California’s tallest mountain. The 134,000-acre national monument would include: Wildlife corridors linking Joshua Tree National Park to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains; Bighorn sheep and desert tortoise habitat; and The Whitewater River.

 

Joshua Tree National Park –

 

Scientists predict that Joshua trees may disappear as climate change alters their habitat. This act would add more than 2,800 acres to Joshua Tree National Park’s northern boundary – an area rich in Joshua trees, granite peaks and habitat for desert tortoise and other rare and endangered species.

Death Valley National Park –

 

This national park would incorporate another 46,000 acres, including the southern geological gem known as the “Bowling Alley.”

 

Mojave National Preserve –

 

This desert preserve would increase by 29,000 acres to include a former gold mining area that has been reclaimed.

 

Rivers and creeks –

 

The act would protect 76 miles of Deep Creek, Amargosa River, Surprise Canyon and other waterways.

 

Five new wilderness areas –

 

This act would protect federal wildlands in Death Valley National Park and other areas.

 

Augmenting tourism –

 

If the desert stays beautiful, millions of international tourists will continue to visit. Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks bring nearly three million annual visitors, and travelers spend more than $230 million annually on outdoor recreation here.

All these iconic wild places are part of your “great American backyard.” Not all federal wildlands are “wilderness.” Wilderness is a type of protection given to the most pristine wildlands – areas within national parks, forests, recreation areas and other wildlands where there are no roads or development. This officially designated wilderness is the last remnant of the wild landscapes that once stretched from coast to coast.

 

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 visit these websites:

See more at: http://wilderness.org/article/california-desert-protection-act#sthash.b6F7CvfL.dpuf

California Desert Campaign: http://www.californiadesert.org

California Desert Campaign, Solar Energy and Desert Protection video: http://www.californiadesert.org/solar_energy_and_desert_protection

Senator Diane Feinstein: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/_named_files/106900_desert_booklet.pdf

To contact the Sierra Club – Mojave Group, call Jenny Wilder at (760) 220-0730, or email: jensoasis@aol.com

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