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Just plain silly

San Luis Obispo County allowed ignorance to triumph in a debate about the Carrizo Plain and the U.N.

April 09, 2007

THE EFFORT TO add 250,000 acres of desolate, virtually unknown California grassland to a U.N. list of "world heritage" sites has come to naught -- and thank goodness. The last thing California needs is to surrender precious real estate to the United Nations for blue-helmeted troop maneuvers or as the seat of some future world government.

True, putting the Carrizo Plain National Monument on the UNESCO World Heritage List would have had no effect on U.S. sovereignty. It would have done nothing to subject this gloriously empty and unspoiled space to any laws, rules, edicts or regulations promulgated by any person or entity outside the United States. But it's the United Nations! Next thing you know, they'll want to grab the redwoods.

Actually, Redwood National Park is already on the list. So are Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall -- all without raising the U.N. flag or imposing international stewardship.

The list, as it turns out, is just a list, naming sites that are intrinsic to the splendor of nature and the greatness of the human spirit. Being included on the list raises public consciousness, which may boost tourism, which brings in money to local economies.

And we certainly wouldn't want any money being spent in California by outsiders. Nor would we want any awareness focused on the Carrizo Plain, a place of stark beauty where sandhill cranes spend the winter and tule elk and pronghorn graze in a primordial valley, hidden between folds of the mountains that rise east of Santa Maria and west of Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley. It's a place where you can run your toe along the San Andreas Fault and see, if you know where to look, ancient Chumash art. Death Valley is noisy in comparison.

The people of Taft, on the other side of the Temblor Range, sounded the warning against creeping internationalization and, incidentally, worried aloud that more awareness of the Carrizo Plain would bring scrutiny of oil drilling in neighboring Kern County. They lost this fight once before, when they tried unsuccessfully to block national-monument status in 2001. But they won this time, persuading the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to vote March 27 to keep the grassland off the U.N. list. It's a stirring defense of national sovereignty.

Or, perhaps, a victory of posturing and misinformation over common sense.

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