6 Images

Landscapes At Risk

Larry Blaine, right, outdoor recreation planner for the Barstow office of the Bureau of Land Management, guides brothers Mike Pfeifer, not pictured, of Crestline and Dan Pfeifer of Newport Beach as they explore “Spooky Cave” in Afton Canyon Natural Area. Congress is considering a national landscape conservation system similar to the national parks system that would protect 26 million acres across the West. But most of the sweeping 11-million-acre California Desert Conservation Area is not included, puzzling environmentalists and public land managers in the state. Afton Canyon, considered the “Grand Canyon of the Mojave,” is about 45 minutes east of Barstow. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Blaine and the Pfeifer brothers approach “Spooky Cave,” which is actually a slot canyon in the recreation area east of Barstow. The site is a popular destination for hikers. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Steep canyon walls envelop Blaine and Mike and Dan Pfeifer. Some environmentalists say the exclusion of Afton Canyon and other California desert areas from a proposed national landscape preservation system would leave the areas vulnerable to transmission lines and expanded mining and off-road recreation. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Against the backdrop of the south wall of Afton Canyon, Blaine and the Pfeifers look for prickly pear cactus. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Off-road enthusiasts cross the Mojave River in the Afton Canyon Natural Area. Not everyone is upset the desert areas would be excluded from national protections. Critics say such a designation would prevent people from enjoying the land. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The BLM’s Blaine inspects the workmanship of a rock wall built by Chinese workers nearly a century ago in an open pit mine in the Afton Canyon Natural Area. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)