April 3, 2008

Mojave Desert worth $1 billion

New analysis urges residents to look at the desert in a different way

RYAN ORR Staff Writer
Victor Valley Daily Press

SACRAMENTO — The Mojave Desert provides more than $1 billion annually in economic benefits to San Bernardino County and surrounding areas.

That is according to a recent analysis released by Defenders of Wildlife, urging residents to look at the desert differently.

“People who don’t live there think it’s a barren waste land,” said Mike Skuja, California representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “But it’s not.”

The analysis, called “Economic Oasis,” was compiled from reviewing reports and government documents that together, showed that the counties of San Bernardino, Inyo, Riverside and Los Angeles enjoy more than $1 billion annually in economic benefits from the Mojave Desert.

An estimated $363 million was pumped into the local economy by the Twentynine Palms Marine base, generating more than $690 million in total regional sales, according to the report.

Almost $1.5 billion per year in total regional sales in the entire state was generated from Edwards Air Force Base.

“We want Economic Oasis to illustrate to Californians in the areas around the Mojave exactly what this amazing desert has to offer as a protected sanctuary,” Skuja said.

San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said that the analysis made some good points, but was definitely agenda-driven.

One point it made over and over is that development is a major threat to the desert, said Mitzelfelt.

“It advocates for more regulation, and I don’t really see the need for more regulation,” Mitzelfelt added.

Mitzelfelt said that most of the land that is not included in the Mojave National Preserve or other national parks are included in desert wildlife management areas, which provide stringent environmental requirements for new development.