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Desert Protection

March 24, 1992

Writer Tom Wolf ("The Fight to Protect California's Dead Desert--Is There a Better Way?" Opinion, March 1) looks westward from his turf in Colorado-New Mexico and pronounces that wondrous mix of Sonoran, Mojave and Great Basin desert areas in California "functionally dead." But a land that sustains nearly 2,500 species of plants and animals, that offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery, sand dunes and springtime wildflowers to be found anywhere, is certainly not dead to me or to millions of other Americans.

Wolf trashes the California Desert Protection Act asserting it "simple-mindedly" leaves open "some desert lands to continued destruction while closing others to man-made changes." His statement bares the absence of any practical sense in his argument. Does he really think we could (or should) close all military training bases in our desert, or eliminate all agricultural and home developments that have taken place in parts of the desert, or bar off-road vehicle recreation in all open areas set aside for them? Destructive as such uses may be, it is folly to think this way.

The Desert Protection Act sensibly seeks to protect only a part of the desert not yet injured by development. It does so by using two time-tested tools of federal protection, the National Park Service and congressional wilderness designation.

NANCY W. WHEAT, Vice Chair, National Parks and Conservation Assn., San Marino

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