California Desert Areas Hotly Contested for Off-Road Land Use

October 23rd, 2015 by admin

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The off-road community’s land use focus has turned to the California desert where roughly 1 million acres are under consideration to be designated as National Monuments. If designated, three huge strips of desert would have restricted access for off-road enthusiasts, hikers and renewable energy businesses.

Whether off-roaders are hard core rock crawlers, desert racers or weekend warriors, they prize having access to the open desert terrain. Trail runs, night rides and spring mud bogging give Skyjacker suspension systems and shocks a workout and are staples of the off-road lifestyle.

Senator Dianne Feinstein recently extended an invitation to Obama administration senior officials to visit the site and attend a meeting. Feinstein has fought for the Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains and Sand to Snow to be designated and has stepped up her efforts to set aside these desert sections. The Senator recently petitioned Obama to take executive action, requesting that he cite the Antiquities Act to protect the hotly contested areas.

With the threat of Washington intervention looming, almost 800 people attended an October 13 hearing held under a tent in the Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs. Speakers supported and criticized the move to designate areas as national monuments during the two-hour plus assembly. Both sides passionately lobbied for their causes and Feinstein acknowledged how hard it is to push her agenda through amidst opposition.

offroading-corva

The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the president the power to set aside thousands of acres of land based on “historic or scientific” significance. “More and more of the desert is being taken away from the people,” says CORVA’s Managing Director Amy Granat. “If you look at the entirety of the desert, there has always been a no-win when the Antiquities Act has been put in place.”

Last year, the San Gabriel Mountains area was protected by the Antiquities Act as a National Monument. Since designation, it has not received federal funding and neglect has left a bitter taste in the mouths of off-roaders. “Once a parcel of land is designated, it should be adequately maintained,” says off-road enthusiast Chuck Prescott. “When it’s not, it just makes us frustrated and leaves us wondering who it’s really benefiting.”

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