August 30, 2005

Management of Mojave preserve draws concern

From Staff Reports
Victorville Daily Press

SAN BERNARDINO — The Mojave National Preserve fires have been put out. But concerns associated with the National Park Service's management of the region are just heating up.

San Bernardino County's concerns with the management of the preserve go beyond the fire and the perceived lack of aggressiveness in preventing or suppressing, according to First District Supervisor Bill Postmus. He's concerned about the removal and obliteration of the ranching community within the preserve as well as the removal and obliteration of the water guzzlers that served both livestock and wildlife. Postmus said in a prepared statement he's also alarmed at the regulatory control exerted by parks service over the use of County owned and maintained roads within the preserve.

Other concerns include what he termed "strong-armed law-enforcement tactics" exerted by NPS on neighboring private lands within the preserve; the dogged pursuit of reclaiming property with alleged non-conforming uses.

The Mojave National Preserve was created in 1994 by the California Desert Protection Act. That law also created vast areas of congressionally designated wilderness, which previously had roads and had allowed access, but for which Congress and environmentalists wanted protection.

San Bernardino County actively opposed the creation of the Mojave preserve. In one effort to quiet opponents, the Park Service created an Advisory Commission to include local government representation. But Postmus said his predecessor sat on the commission and provided input — but was ignored. The Commission never met since Postmus was elected 2000.

National Parks Service officials did not comment Monday.

Concerning June's Hackberry Complex Fire that burned 70,636 acres in the east Mojave said that hat if the ranching families were still in the region, much quicker action could and would have been taken when the fire first broke out.

Prior to the Desert Protection Act there was a plan for desert management that contained a degree of wilderness designation on truly roadless areas. That plan was ignored. This resulted in many necessary back country roads being closed — even limiting access by fire trucks, the supervisor said.

Nothing can undo the damage that has been done by the recent fire to the landscape or to the private homes and property in the area. But there are repairs that can be accomplished.

"The anticipated appointment of a new superintendent of the Mojave National Preserve is a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership and to restore order from the top in an administration that is less agenda-driven than the previous administration," Postmus said.