December 21, 2009

Feinstein introduces proposed desert legislation in Senate

Desert Dispatch

WASHINGTON D.C. • U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation Monday that would establish a national monument along an area of Route 66 near Ludlow, add land to the Mojave National Preserve and change the permitting process for renewable energy projects located on public land.

The California Desert Protection Act of 2010 would create two national monuments — the Mojave Trails National Monument and the Sand to Snow National Monument. According to Feinstein’s office, it would add land to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks as well as add 30,000 acres to Mojave National Preserve. It would also designate 250,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management near Fort Irwin as wilderness. The bill would also address off-highway vehicle usage, and change the permitting process for renewable energy projects.

The Mojave Trails National Monument consists of 940,000 acres of land along Route 66 near Ludlow, according to Feinstein’s office. The BLM would be given the authority to conserve the monument lands, but also to maintain existing recreational uses, including hunting, camping, horseback riding and motorized travel on open roads and trails.

“What’s really interesting about the (Mojave Trails) is it would effectively create a wildlife corridor between Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve,” said David Lamfrom, the Barstow representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. “It would be really significant for the health of these ecosystems.”

Feinstein’s bill would also require the BLM to establish offices focused specifically on renewable energy development. It would set strict guidelines for developers to conduct environmental reviews and ensure connection to the power grid. The bill would also require the BLM, Forest Service and military to complete environmental impact statements on renewable energy programs located within their jurisdiction.

The Sand to Snow National Monument would encompass 134,000 acres of land from the Coachella Valley to Mount San Gorgonio.