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Don't Let Bush Agenda Destroy Our Deserts

November 04, 2002

The Bush administration's anti-environmental agenda is hitting the California desert even harder than The Times pointed out ("Dynamics Changing in Battle for Desert," Oct. 28). As you noted, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management proposes to reopen 50,000 acres of the fragile Algodones Dunes to off-road vehicle thrill-riding.

Not mentioned was that the BLM is bullying its sister agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to reverse a previous scientific decision that found the dune closure necessary to save rare plants from extinction. Moreover, the Interior Department is readying new rules to ease the granting of rights of way for highway construction across federal public lands under an obscure 1866 mining law known as Revised Statute 2477.

Rural counties across the West are claiming thousands of remote jeep trails and even wash bottoms as R.S. 2477 "highways" in order to thwart wilderness designation or other conservation measures. In the California desert, San Bernardino County claims thousands of miles of these bogus highways, including 2,500 miles within the Mojave National Preserve alone, and others in Death Valley National Park and in designated and proposed federally protected wilderness areas. If granted, these trails would become a spider web of new county roads, crisscrossing millions of acres of national parks and wilderness.

Congress can help stop the Bush administration's attack on the desert by legislating permanent protection for some of the last unprotected wilderness in the desert, as proposed in the California Wild Heritage Act. In a state blessed with such beautiful landscapes, we must safeguard our treasures for generations to come.

Mary L. Wells

Executive Director

California Wilderness

Coalition, Davis, Calif.

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Reading the front page of the Oct. 28 California section, one couldn't help but reflect on the irony. Two articles: one on the initiation of a multimillion-dollar restoration of Bolsa Chica and the San Francisco Bay; the other on the battle to open the desert to mining companies, ranchers, the military and motorized recreation.

Donald Kennedy

Garden Grove

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