WASHINGTON — Commenting on economic restrictions he said would be enacted by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's desert protections bill, San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee Thursday, warning the legislation would close a major gold mine.
Feinstein's California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015 would shutter Castle Mountain, a gold mine expanding to become the second-largest in the state, according to Lovingood.
The mine could create 300 full-time positions with a direct tax benefit of more than $225 million to the county, he said. It's located near the Nevada border, essentially central between Primm and Needles.
"Concerns remain in regards to the proposed legislation and the potential negative impacts to mining, economic development and jobs in our county," he told the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining.
Lovingood said by phone Thursday the county was still recovering economically from the effects of Feinstein's historic 1994 California Desert Protection Act. Instead, he supports alternative legislation introduced last week by Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, which Cook has called "a balanced approach to protecting, managing and using our desert areas in San Bernardino and Inyo Counties."
A major difference between the two bills is that Cook's California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act allows for limited new mining operations and reduces Feinstein's planned Mojave Trails National Monument to a proposed Mojave Trails Special Management Area.
Feinstein, D-California, will host a public meeting Tuesday on the proposed Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments included in her bill. U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor and a top U.S. Department of Agriculture official have also been invited to attend.
The event will take place 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Wildlands Conservancy's Whitewater Preserve, 9160 Whitewater Canyon Road in Whitewater.
The Wilderness Society, a leading conservation organization, reiterated its support for Feinstein's bill Thursday, calling it "one of the most visionary conservation efforts before this Congress."
The group also said Feinstein's bill has garnered input and support from a broad coalition that includes local residents, community leaders, business owners, veterans, faith leaders, conservationists and tribes.
Shea Johnson may be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.