The Campaign for the California Desert today praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a measure that would safeguard nearly 500,000 acres of public land in southeastern California, protecting sensitive water resources, fragile wildlife habitat, recreation, and historic trails that drive tourism essential to the region’s economy. The bill, which was part of the Natural Resources Management Act, passed the Senate February 12, and now awaits the President’s signature.

The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2019 (S. 67/H.R. 376) would designate 375,500 acres of wilderness and more than 70 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and add 43,000 acres to Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks. The bill, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both (D-CA), and Representatives Paul Cook (R-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), would establish the 81,800-acre Vinagre Wash Special Management Area in Imperial County to protect ecologically sensitive areas and Native American heritage sites. It would also designate the 18,840-acre Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in Inyo County for continued recreational use.

“The success of the desert bill completes a 10 year journey to permanently protect the scenic mountains along the northern border of Joshua Tree National Park,” said Jessica Dacey of Mojave Desert Land Trust. “First acquired by Mojave Desert Land Trust, these lands will now be gifted to the American people and cared for by the National Park Service, improving public access, wildlife habitat, and cultural resources values. We applaud Senator Feinstein and Representative Cook on this landmark achievement.”

For more than a decade, Sen. Feinstein, along with other members of the congressional delegation, has worked with elected officials, business owners, veterans, local faith leaders, sportsmen, historians, conservationists and others to protect this unique landscape and preserve our desert heritage for future generations.

“The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe of Death Valley, California is thankful for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s and Representative Paul Cook’s persistence and leadership in getting this bill passed,” said Barbara Durham, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. “The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe has supported this bill for many years. This bill is important to the Timbisha people because it gives us peace of mind to know that more of our ancestral lands and sacred sites are finally going to receive the permanent protection that they deserve.”

“The passage of this bill will finalize a 10-year process with local residents of Inyo County to ensure the Alabama Hill’s priceless scenic resources and the legacy of its historical and cultural history will be cared for and celebrated by future generations,” said Kathy Bancroft of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group.

Passage of the California Desert Protection and Conservation Act will boost the local economy.  Visitors from across the country and around the globe come to explore and enjoy the California Desert’s outstanding hiking, camping, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association Found that outdoor recreation in California generates $92 billion in consumer spending, 691,000 jobs, $30.4 billion in wages and salaries and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

The passage of the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act means iconic, solitude and escape-offering places like Joshua Tree and Death Valley, and 73 miles of life giving rivers and streams will be protected for future generations of all species,” said Annie Nyborg, Sustainability Director at Peak Design. “As a member of The Conservation Alliance, we are proud to have played a small part in these important protections for California’s wild places.”

By making conservation of public lands in the California desert a priority, Members of the 116th Congress are adding to an extraordinary American legacy of protected public lands that will be enjoyed and appreciated for generations to come.

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