November 16, 2007

Bill would help protect our desert paradise

The Desert Sun [Palm Springs CA]

What makes this desert paradise we live in unique is that it is a desert paradise and we should do all we can to protect the precious landscape and its creatures.

The California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act, H.R. 3682, would provide that protection. It is sponsored in the U.S. House by Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, who is working with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. to expand the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. More than 40,000 acres in the Joshua Tree National Park would be designated as wilderness and certain river segments would be protected as "wild, scenic, or recreational."

The land would receive the highest level of protection under federal law. That means no Motocross, no bicycles - just pure and simple preservation for all time.

There are concerns about gaining access to fight fires. Fires in remote areas are often fought by air, in addition to ground crews.

Because we're talking about thousands of acres of designated natural habitat, we're looking at land that has virtually no private property to defend.

In addition, Bono has addressed some of the concerns in the bill. Necessary measures for control and prevention of fire, insects and diseases will be afforded to the land as deemed appropriate by the Secretary of Agriculture.

The Secretary has six months after the enactment to prepare management plans for the area.

In addition, certain, small areas considered sacred sites of Native American tribes will be closed to the general public, but open to tribal members for traditional cultural and religious purposes.

Again, such areas are not expansive, but are important to the native people of the land and this Act ensures respect of native tribes and protection of their history and culture.

The area also is home to threatened wildlife species. Another 40,000 acres in the park would be designated as potential wilderness while the National Park Service settled property claims.

This is a good bill that has the teeth to ensure protection of one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

Words can't describe dusk at Joshua Tree National Park, but a bill to protect that time of day, every day, can and should.