Re “Bush Opens Way for Counties and States to Claim Wilderness Roads,” Jan. 21: As a member of a family whose outdoor recreation in the deserts and mountains dates back three generations, I applaud this change in anti-access thinking. It’s about time someone brings some sanity to the unnecessary and arcane land closures of the last 20 years. I’ve seen many of the places I love closed in the name of “protecting” and “saving.” Protecting from what? Saving for whom?
In all my years visiting campsites and traveling on trails or roads, I have never, ever once said, “The land around here sure has been devastated by the people coming here.” If you travel through, or fly over, the Mojave National Preserve, which ends at the California border, you can’t tell where the Nevada state line starts. It’s all the same giant desert. Shouldn’t California’s side of the border be in better shape than Nevada’s, which has no restrictions? We need to reopen some of our lost treasures, instead of closing them off, only to be viewed from a far-off highway. As outdoor recreation continues to grow, we need to create more places to go instead of funneling more and more people into fewer and fewer recreational sites.
Sneaky rule changes by Interior Secretary Gale Norton threaten to pave over our American natural heritage. Radical anti-conservation counties, such as San Bernardino, have been crying Chicken Little since the 1994 California Desert Protection Act was enacted to safeguard national parks and wilderness areas, including critical habitat essential for the desert tortoise and other endangered species. Now the Bush administration happily gives them a hammer to smash the national interest in public lands conservation -- RS 2477 road claims.
Roads and vehicles fragment habitat, run over wildlife, spread weeds and fire, create dust pollution, ease illegal dumping and destroy the wilderness experience. Mojave National Preserve managers shamefully allowed county officials to drive across designated wilderness, making it easy to map their claims across 2,600 miles of desert. The motorized attack on our public lands has little to do with access but everything to do with excess. It must be stopped if we are to preserve any wild areas for wildlife and our children.
Daniel R. Patterson
Desert Ecologist, Center
for Biological Diversity