February 15, 2009

Environmental group opens office in Barstow

By ABBY SEWELL, staff writer
Desert Dispatch

BARSTOW • The newly opened office of the National Parks Conservation Association in Barstow is still almost bare, but staffer David Lamfrom has big plans for it.

The nonprofit organization, which was created in 1919 by the same people who founded the National Park Service, lobbies and provides public education and community outreach on issues centering around the national parks. Its office in Barstow opened Feb. 9.

In the coming months NPCA will give digital cameras to a dozen High Desert high school students and lead them on expeditions to the Mojave Desert, where they will photograph desert tortoises, their habitat, and threats to their survival. At the end of the 16-month program, the group will self-publish a photographic book focused on the tortoise.

In the process, Lamfrom — who worked as an environmental biologist and then as vice president of an environmental consulting firm before joining the NPCA as a field representative — hopes the kids will learn not only about the desert ecosystem but about critical thinking and expressing themselves through art.

“It’s a marriage of arts and sciences,” he said.

Aside from the desert tortoise project, the NPCA has also advocated on environmental issues like the siting of renewable energy projects.

Another focus of the nonprofit is on channeling the tourism to the national parks so that communities like Barstow see a positive economic impact, Lamfrom said. As one piece of that, the NPCA sits on the Barstow-Kelso Heritage Railroad committee, which hopes to run a tour train from the Harvey House in Barstow to the historic Kelso Depot, traveling through roadless regions of the desert in between.

“Ultimately the long-term goal of this office is to help Barstow embrace being the gateway to the Mojave National Preserve,” Lamfrom said.

The group has already begun working with some other local partners, like the Desert Discovery Center and its Discovery Trails educational program, and the Mojave Environmental Education Consortium, a public-private partnership that provides teachers with environmental education materials and provides grants that allow teachers to take students on environmentally-focused field trips.

Jane Laraman-Brockhurst, artistic coordinator for Discovery Trails and president of local nonprofit Main Street Murals, said the NPCA will add a welcome new piece to the Desert Discovery Center Partnership, which previously included the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Barstow Community College, Barstow Unified School District, the Mojave River Valley Museum and Main Street Murals. NPCA will be leading some workshops and assisting with a field trip to Death Valley as part of Main Street Murals’ Discovery Trails educational program on the Ice Age.

“It’s really important that the public experience the public lands we have, and that’s David (Lamfrom’s) role, is as an enabler to get the public to really experience public lands,” she said.

In the future Lamfrom said he also hopes to partner with the city of Barstow in bringing more national-park related economic development to town.