January 19, 2000

Public Takes Title to Almost 225,000 Acres of Inholdings Spread Across California Desert

Business Editors
Business Wire


The public, through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), yesterday (January 18, 2000) took ownership of almost 225,000 acres of key parcels of private lands spread throughout the California Desert in San Bernardino County as part of an unprecedented public-private partnership to protect the Desert's natural values.

The Partnership, in addition to BLM, involves The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC), a non-profit group based in Oak Glen, Calif., which contributed $15 million to private funds toward the purchase; Catellus Development Corporation (NYSE:CDX), owner of the alternate sections of lands originally granted to Southern Pacific Railroad, which sold the lands at a discounted price; and Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was instrumental in obtaining the $10 million in Federal funds from Congress needed to complete the purchase.

The acquisition not only brings 224,706 acres of private lands into public ownership and makes these lands immediately available for public use and enjoyment, it also fills in critical gaps and provides the public improved access to several hundred thousand acres of existing public lands interspersed with the newly acquired inholdings. These lands are spread across more than 140 miles of desert lands stretching from Barstow east to the Colorado River.

The transaction is part of a larger acquisition effort involving TWC, Catellus, BLM, the National Park Service (NPS), and hundreds of small inholders who desire to sell their scattered tracts in the large area. The Department of Interior, which oversees BLM, is required by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Feinstein, to give priority to consolidating Federal Ownership within the National Park units and BLM wilderness areas designated by the Act.

The larger acquisition partnership was initially aimed at bringing into public ownership a total of 437,000 acres of Catellus holdings and up to 50,000 acres of small private inholdings within the NPS's Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park and within 15 BLM Wilderness Areas and other BLM areas in the Desert with high recreation and wildlife values.

TWC has recently reached an agreement with Catellus to expand the potential acquisition by 433,000 acres, to a total of 480,000 acres of Catellus lands. The additional acquisition area would include portions of the scenic Cady Mountains and key wildlife corridors and habitat between Joshua Tree Park and Mojave National Preserve.

In addition to the $25 million expended yesterday, Congress has appropriated $5 million to the NPS acquisitions in Fiscal Year 2000 and has targeted an additional $15 million for BLM and NPS in Fiscal Year 2001 if certain conditions are met to complete the overall effort. TWC is endeavoring to raise the additional private funds necessary to complete the remaining land acquisitions from Catellus. Including yesterday's closing, these acquisitions would total $53 million.
In addition to the direct acquisitions, the side benefits of the partnership include:

-- Ongoing land exchanges between BLM and Catellus, such as an
exchange which closed last week valued at $3.7 million. This
exchange resulted in public acquisition of about 12,000 acres
near Barstow, primarily in the Black Mountain Wilderness and the
Rainbow Basin Area of Critical Environmental Concern; and

-- A commitment obtained by TWC that Catellus will grant the Federal
government easements over certain properties Catellus will retain
in the Desert once the overall acquisition is completed,
providing the public access across hundreds of miles of
recreation routes currently traversing Catellus private lands.

Further information on the BLM can be obtained at their website www.ca.blm.gov.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Business Wire
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

January 12, 2000

The Mojave Phone Booth

How a windswept, bullet hole-ridden telephone became a legend in its own time.

By J.A. Getzlaff
Daily Planet on

Jan. 12, 2000 Somewhere in the middle of the Mojave National Reserve is a phone booth. Thanks to Internet cowboy Godfrey Daniels, the windswept, bullet hole-ridden booth, once used solely by ranchers and miners, is now famous.

The story goes like this: Daniels, a computer programmer by day and hopeless romantic by night, heard about a working phone booth sitting in the midst of scorched scrub about 12 miles off of Interstate 15 and 75 miles southwest of Las Vegas. Curious, he set out to find the booth, and not only did he find it -- he fell in love with it.

Daniels rode home and created a Web site, cleverly titled
The Mojave Phone Booth Site.

His labor of love paid off, and soon digital surfers from far and wide were calling the phone -- and in some cases, peeling their butts from their chairs to actually visit The Booth to answer its incoming calls.

To date, calls have been made by South Africans and answered by New Yorkers. At all hours of the day and night, the phone rings.

But not everybody has been happy about it. According to Daniels' site, one killjoy stole the phone's receiver, and now park rangers are confiscating the quartz stones that have been used to write out the booth's phone number for aerial viewers.

Yet the Mojave Phone Booth prevails -- it remains up and running, lovingly decorated with big-busted Mattel toys and photographs of itself, and inspiring television commercials, a short story and even an indie film, "Dead Line."