Posted on: March 13 2012

Defending the Desert in the Morongo Valley

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By Seth Shteir, California Desert Field Representative 

On January 31, 2012, National Parks Conservation Association, Friends of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, The Summer Tree Institute, The Wildlands Conservancy, and the Morongo Valley Chamber of Commerce teamed up to host an advocacy event to build support for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s California Desert Protection Act of 2011.

The California Desert Protection Act of 2011 would create the Sand to Snow National Monument, which includes Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, an area of outstanding biodiversity and recreational opportunities near the community of Morongo Valley. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve has been designated as a National Watchable Wildlife Site and is a world-class bird-watching destination due to the impressive diversity (almost 250 species) of both migratory and resident birds. The Canyon’s year-round stream flow is a critical water source for many of the desert bighorn sheep whose home range includes Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park.

The California Desert Protection Act of 2011 would also designate wilderness and Wild and Scenic River segments, create the 941,000 acre Mojave Trails National Monument, and add land to Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and the Mojave National Preserve. The bill would preserve critical wildlife corridors, like those that link the high, cool San Bernardino Mountains with the lower elevation Mojave Desert, ensuring that as our climate changes, animals can roam to seek food, shelter, and successful reproductive sites. All of the land concerned is already government land and the legislation would serve to strengthen current protection, enhance recreational opportunities, and promote tourism.

The Morongo Valley meeting provided a public forum to discuss future opportunities to promote this important piece of legislation, including inviting two elected officials to tour Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and meet with business owners who support the legislation. 

Four panelists and I urged the audience to get involved with NPCA and its allies in the effort to move the California Desert Protection Act forward. Fortunately, San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor Neil Derry supports the Desert Protection Act. “The bill will enhance recreational opportunities, protect wildlife and promote destination tourism in the high desert,” says Supervisor Derry. “Investing in the preservation of our public lands and regional economy will pay dividends for future generations.”

The bill has the broad-based community support of businesses, leaders, chambers of commerce, organizations, and elected officials. Currently, it has over 140 endorsers, with almost 40 businesses and approximately 30 organizations, including some off-road vehicle recreationists and energy companies.  Most recently NPCA and its coalition allies secured the unanimous endorsement of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and the California Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about the California Desert Protection Act of 2011, maps, and a current list of endorsers, please visit www.californiadesert.org.

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