Old men usually subscribe to old adages. When it comes to Senate Bill 7, the proposed California Desert Protection Act, the phrase "if it ain't broke--don't fix it" is particularly fitting as far as we're concerned. For many reasons we oppose Sen. Alan Cranston's (D-Calif.) bill.
The issue of the California desert is one on which we have been actively working for a long time. Over a period of years, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management have been considering boundary adjustments to the current California Desert Conservation Area. We have most recently agreed to consider, through the desert plan amendment process, certain boundary changes that we believe will enhance the management of the Joshua Tree and Death Valley national monuments.
The proposals concern one area to the south of the Joshua Tree National Monument consisting of approximately 4,500 acres and four areas along the perimeter of the Death Valley National Monument consisting of about 243,000 acres. These areas represent natural geographic, topographic, or hydrologic extensions and would enhance the manageability of the two monuments. We believe that the additional acreage proposed in Senate Bill 7 for expansion of the monuments is not necessary. That acreage is more effectively managed by the BLM and its inclusion would do little to enhance the manageability of the two monuments.
The existing mechanisms for modification embodied in the California Desert Conservation Area Plan do, indeed, provide the land-use planning flexibility originally sought and envisioned by Congress.
We have forwarded our proposed boundary changes to the California Desert Advisory Board so that the preparation of an environmental impact statement may proceed, to be followed by in-depth public review.
The desert plan-amendment process offers an excellent opportunity to review planning decisions by which the desert lands are managed and for what uses. This process allows for continued public input and dialogue on the plan.
We also do not believe it is appropriate to designate the east Mojave as a national park for these general reasons: 1) air corridor military; 2) roads and highways bisection; (3) mining claims, and 4) power and utility lines.
WILLIAM PENN MOTT JR.
National Park Service
ROBERT F. BURFORD