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Feinstein's desert bill awaits debate in Senate committee

A senate bill that would turn about 940,000 acres along Route 66 east of Ludlow into a national monument is currently being scrutinized in the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In the meantime, more than 60 elected officials, cities and business leaders have given their endorsement to the California Desert Protection Act, including Barstow Mayor Joe Gomez.

Introduced in December by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, if passed, the Desert Protection Act would extend the boundaries of Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve. It would also create more wilderness areas and protect off-highway vehicle recreation areas. And in addition to creating Mojave Trails National Monument along Route 66, it would create the Sand to Snow National Monument, 134,000 acres between the Coachella Valley and Mount San Gorgonio.

The California Desert Protection Act of 2010 went before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee May 20 and will have to be debated and rewritten before it goes before the entire senate, said Laurel Williams, Southern California’s deputy conservation director for the California Wilderness Coalition, which is made up of conservation groups that support the bill.

At the hearing, the committee took testimony in support of the bill from conservation groups and is waiting on written comments from the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Forest Service, said David Lamfrom, program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

Gomez gave his endorsement to the California Desert Protection Act because setting aside areas for off-highway vehicles will have a positive impact to Barstow’s economy, he said. Turning the area along Route 66 into a national monument will also be beneficial to Barstow.

“I believe that will help the city of Barstow to recapitalize on the Route 66 theme,” he said.

Other cities and elected officials who have given the California Desert Protection Act their endorsement include Hesperia Mayor Thurston “Smitty” Smith and the Town of Apple Valley.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com


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