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CORVA Exclusive News - California Desert Protection and Recreation Act

October 26, 2015 3:37 PM | CORVA Administrator (Administrator)

CORVA Exclusive News  - In a recent development, S 414, Senator Feinstein’s Desert Protection and Recreation Act, will be heard in Senate Natural Resources Committee in October 2015.     This is likely to slow efforts by the Obama administration to designate national monuments in the area.

Companion legislation is expected to be introduced by Representative Cook any day, another key development.

 The LA Times recently reported that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein  asked President Obama to bypass Congress and create three new national monuments in California, giving federal protection to more than 1 million acres of desert and other lands.

Two bills introduced by Feinstein over the past six years languished in Congress amid conflicts among off-roaders, hunters, environmentalists, and mining and renewable-energy interests.

"Despite strong support from the many stakeholders in the desert, from conservation groups, off-road recreation supporters, counties, energy companies, water districts, business groups and tribes, we have not been able to move it in the Senate, and the House has yet to introduce the version I'm told they've been working on for months,” said Feinstein.

The California Democrat asked Obama in a letter Aug. 3 to designate monuments known as Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. Doing so would ensure the protection of their natural and cultural resources and recreational and economic opportunities, she said.

In a statement Friday, Feinstein said she has not given up on winning congressional approval. Her request, which the senator acknowledged after The Times obtained a copy of her letter to Obama, applies pressure on Congress and the various interest groups to resolve their differences or face presidential action in which they have little voice.

Feinstein was encouraged to seek presidential action by conservation groups including The Wildlands Conservancy, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Mojave Desert Lands Trust and Friends of the Desert Mountains.

Much of the land under consideration was purchased more than a decade ago by private citizens and conservation organizations, then donated to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in anticipation that they would eventually come under protection of national monument status.

Amy Granat, managing director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association, was disappointed with Feinstein's action. "We believe the use of the Antiquities Act to designate any national monument is an overreach of executive authority," she said.

San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos, whose district includes much of the land targeted for monument status, expressed mixed feelings about Feinstein's request.

"We want this bill to proceed through the legislative process," Ramos said. "But if the administration moves forward with an executive action, we strongly support protection of existing mining rights in those areas."


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