WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Wilderness Society praised Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for reintroducing legislation today that would preserve the unparalleled heritage of the California desert by creating two new National Monuments and expanding Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve. The bill would also establish new wilderness areas in Death Valley National Park and on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service.
The bill, the California Desert Protection Act of 2011, would preserve about 1.6 million acres of federal public lands that are essential for tourism, recreation, wildlife habitat and water resources. The Act would safeguard historic trails, Native American cultural areas and portions of Route 66. The new monuments will be important additions to the National Landscape Conservation System, and expansion of the National Parks and Preserve will continue the tradition of protecting these national treasures.
By preserving these areas, the bill delivers on the Senator’s longstanding conservation promise while not impeding the nation’s progress toward responsible clean energy development on public lands.
“Senator Feinstein has worked tirelessly to preserve the California desert that is a legacy of our American West,” said Paul Spitler, National Wilderness Campaigns Associate Director. “Her legislation will help ensure that the desert’s unique and spectacular scenery will continue to attract visitors from around the world.”
Man has long sought refuge in the California desert. It is a landscape of diverse and scenic contrasts found nowhere else on Earth. It is home to pastel peaks, dramatic sand dunes, hidden oases and springs, herds of bighorn sheep, wildflower fields, Joshua tree forests and desert tortoise. Vast swathes of land have remained virtually undisturbed here for centuries – and those panoramic vistas remain the same as when Native Americans and pioneers first viewed them.
The desert’s iconic scenery is also a boon to the region’s tourism and recreation economy. Visitors spend more than $230 million annually on outdoor recreation in the California desert, according to federal data, and Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks attract nearly three million visitors each year. Local communities with lodging, restaurants, gas stations, stores and other travel businesses strongly support this legislation.
As the bill moves through the legislative process, The Wilderness Society looks forward to working with Senator Feinstein, other members of the Senate and House, and the Obama Administration to make necessary clarifications and improvements.