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California Desert Protection Act Celebrates 15 Years

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November 04, 2009 08:31PM
The National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today mark the 15th anniversary of a landmark public lands act that set aside entire landscapes of the California Desert for future generations as parks and wilderness areas.

The California Desert Protection Act, enacted on October 31, 1994, (Public Law 103-433) affects almost 9.2 million acres of public lands, stretching from the far northern end of Death Valley to the U.S.-Mexico border. Sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and numerous members of California's House delegation, the Act designated two national parks, one national preserve, millions of acres of federal wilderness areas, as well as other special areas.

"The CDPA was a tipping point for land protection, said Rory Westberg, acting regional director for NPS. It was a multi-million acre preservation effort, perhaps the last one in the lower 48, by the NPS and BLM as well as other interagency partners, and recognized the enormous role desert landscapes play in hydrology, migration and climate change."

"The CDPA was undoubtedly the most far-reaching piece of legislation affecting the California Desert passed by Congress since the California Desert Conservation Area was established by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in October 1976," according to BLM Acting State Director Jim Abbott. "Since then, tremendous progress has been made in restoring historical impacts to these new park and wilderness areas under NPS and BLM protection."

Specifically, the Act (Public Law 103-433):
  • Designated the 1.4-million-acre Mojave National Preserve from public lands transferred from BLM to NPS;
  • Added 1.3 million acres to Death Valley from lands transferred from BLM to NPS and designated it a national park;
  • Added 234,000 acres to Joshua Tree from lands transferred from BLM to NPS and designated it a national park;
  • Designated 74 new wilderness areas in the California Desert, totaling 7,661,069 acres managed by NPS, BLM, and Forest Service;
  • Designated eight wilderness study areas (WSAs), totaling 326,430 acres managed by BLM;
  • Designated several areas with special features, including the 9,000-acre Granite Mountain Natural Preserve the Soda Springs Desert Study Center, the 2,040-acre Desert Lily Sanctuary, and the 590-acre Dinosaur Trackway Area of Critical Environmental Concern;
  • Transferred 20,500 acres of public lands from BLM to the state of California to expand the Red Rock Canyon State Park; and
  • Reauthorized several military withdrawals to be managed by the Department of Defense in cooperation with the Department of the Interior.
NPS and BLM administer these areas with the active involvement of many partners. A few examples include:
  • The Student Conservation Association provided crews for removing old vehicle routes and restoring park wilderness landscapes to their natural condition;
  • The Wildlands Conservancy donated more than 560,000 acres of land to block up checkerboard lands in the Mojave Preserve and BLM wilderness areas;
  • The National Parks and Conservation Association
  • The National Park Foundation and Mojave Desert Land Trust acquired approximately 25,000 acres (400 parcels) of inholdings in the NPS units
  • The Wilderness Land Trust acquired more than 10,000 acres (100 parcels) of private inholdings throughout the BLM wilderness areas; and
  • Friends of the Desert Mountains acquired over 4,000 acres of inholdings in the Orocopia, Mecca, and the Santa Rosa Wilderness Areas.
In a joint statement, Abbott and Westberg observed, "Just as in 1976 and 1994, today the California Desert faces many challenges with pressures from recreation, land development, vehicle use, energy production and transmission, and many other uses in the region. The CDPA provides clear protection for millions of acres, thus ensuring other necessary public uses may be accommodated while still ensuring preservation of our treasured landscapes."

For more information, contact John Dearing at BLM www.blm.gov/ca or (916-978-4610) or the NPS at 510-817-1320.

California Desert Protection Act Celebrates 15 Years

Rick1802November 04, 2009 08:31PM

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