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05/28/2010

California Desert Protection Bill Gets a Congressional Hearing

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on S. 2921, the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, sponsored by Senate Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).  The bill would declare two new national monuments in the Mojave Desert, increase the size of two national parks, create five new wilderness areas, and create four new wild and scenic river designations.  In total, the designations would add protections to nearly 1 million acres.

The Obama administration expressed general support for the bill, but each of the three federal agencies affected by it suggested changes.  The Defense Department, which has major installations in the region and routinely uses its land for military exercises, asked for a specific analysis of how the development restrictions would affect is activities.  The Bureau of Land Management supported the goals of the bill but expressed concerns about a provision that would change the way the federal revenue from wind and solar projects is allocated, namely that the proposal to divert some revenue from the Treasury Department would have serious costs.  And the Forest Service supported provisions of the bill that affected its lands but deferred to the other entities on sections concerning their lands and interests.

The Sierra Club expressed qualified support for the bill, but we continue to have some concerns.  You can read our letter that was submitted for the hearing record to learn more.

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