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Protecting California's Desert Areas

August 06, 1988

Although Cranston's desert bill is apparently dead for this year, it is an issue that will most assuredly return in January. It is important, therefore, that several widespread misconceptions concerning this legislation be corrected.

Far from being merely a turf battle between the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service or an issue of desert "protection," the controversy surrounding the bill concerns national security and the economy of California, as well as the rights of recreationists.

The operations of such vital military installations as Edwards Air Force Base, Fort Irwin and the China Lake Naval Weapons Center would be greatly inhibited should this bill pass, due to limitations that would be placed on the restricted airspace complex, the most important military airspace in the free world. The mining of 27 strategic and critical mineral commodities used for national defense would also be severely restricted.

Moreover, the economic impact of impeding the recovery of $300 billion worth of known resources would be so devastating that the affected counties of San Bernardino, Imperial and Inyo have all passed resolutions opposing the bill, as have 20 other California counties.

It would better serve the public interest for The Times to support the existing compromise California desert plan, which took four years to develop. This plan utilizes input from environmentalists, the military, economic interests and recreationists and includes a flexible amendment process. It was supported by both the Carter and Reagan Administrations, and Cranston himself, who wrote in 1981 that "This is a balanced plan which should meet the needs of all users of the desert while at the same time protecting the region's unique resources." Cranston's Senate Bill 7 would throw away this balanced, flexible plan and with it a large part of our national security and economic well-being.

ROBERT MOONEY

Glendora

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