Treehuggers International

The Beating Heart of the Mojave Desert

October 10th, 2010

David Lamfrom from the National Parks Conservation Association

We at Treehuggers International are indebted to David Lamfrom for making the drive from Barstow to be a guest on Treehuggers International, and for his years building consensus and an impressive grassroots coalition for the proposed California Desert Protection Act, currently before Congress in a bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A wildlife photographer, biologist, community organizer, and co-author of the book Tortoises Through the Lens: A Visual Exploration of A Mojave Desert Icon, David serves as the California Desert Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association’s offices in Barstow and Joshua Tree.  He is also the President of the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy.

A native of Florida, David has found his calling in the vast expanses, great silence, and star-filled nights of California’s Mojave Desert.

The Castle Mountains at the eastern end of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument.

The California Desert Protection Act of 2010

If passed, the act will protect over one million acres of the Mojave Desert’s last wild, staggeringly scenic areas, with the creation of two new National Monuments: the Mojave Trails National Monument on former railroad lands adjoining historic U.S. Rt. 66, and the Sand to Snow National Monument, which would include areas from the desert floor of the Coachella Valley to the high country of the San Bernardino Mountains, and extend full environmental protection to pristine areas like Big Morongo Canyon and the Whitewater River watershed.

Five new wilderness areas and several Wild and Scenic River designations are also slated to come into being with the bill, mostly on land currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The legislative package also includes plans to add additional, adjacent lands to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve, creating a network of newly-protected wildlife connectivity unrivaled anywhere in the lower 48 states.

Desert Couple

Where the Sun Shines

We at Treehuggers International can’t endorse solar power fast enough.  If we’d been around in 1979 when President Carter announced the installation of a new solar-powered hot water heater in the White House, saying he hoped it wouldn’t be an “oddity” in 30 years, we would’ve been in the front row applauding.

Unfortunately, Carter’s solar hot water heater became the oddity he feared just a few short years later when the Reagan administration tore out the solar panels on the roof of the White House, symbolically spinning the wheels of the nation for another couple of decades until President Obama ordered new solar panels installed last month.

As far as solar farms go, there are thousands places in Southern California where industrial-scale solar collection can be developed, other than wild areas of the Mojave Desert currently proposed for wilderness designation.

Already a deal has been struck to build a massive new solar farm at the base of the Clark Mountain Wilderness Area, forever undoing one of the great wild vistas of the Mojave, while tens of thousands of more accessible “disturbed,” or otherwise altered, locales outside of conservation, recreation, and military areas remain available.

While we enthusiastically applaud the move towards solar energy and green business in the Golden State, until the California Desert Protection Act passes, the piecemeal nibbling away of the Mojave Desert’s last wild, pristine, and undisturbed areas will continue.

Empty Roofs In Sunland

Roofs of warehouses and industrial parks in the Southland already constitute significant wasted space and limitless opportunity for solar collection.  If such spaces were used effectively for giant solar collector “farms” (instead of reflecting the solar energy back into the sky), the energy collected would already be in accessible urban areas, thereby undoing the need to construct colossal, eyesore power lines to bring electricity from the backcountry into cities.

Southern California should be leading the world in the development and use of solar technology, and yet, pay a visit to housing tracts in Indio or El Centro and what do you find? Households with summertime electricity bills exceeding $800 dollars a month, all to power air conditioning with electricity generated by either coal or fossil fuel-burning plants, or the one element more scarce in the southwest than anything else: water, in the form of dam-powered hydroelectricity along the Colorado River at Hoover or Glen Canyon dams.

The Mojave Desert's last wild lands: Only appropriate for solar collection sites?

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