The Desert Wilderness Protection Act

by Karen Lee Bixman
Published in:
Media ByPass Magazine
(1-800-4-bypass)

Senator Diane Feinstein: "The Modern Jesse James"

Congress should be convening a criminal investigation. On October 8, 1994, the biggest gold heist in history occurred, but this theft lacked the melodrama of a Jesse James' holdup or the excitement of a Brink's truck robbery. Nary a word was reported by the media even though this thievery was committed in the light of day. The citizens that were being robbed tried to cry out for help but the lawmen wouldn't listen because unbeknownst to them, they were helping the bandits gain their booty.

The 103rd Congress managed to accommodate more than a gang of train robbers could achieve in a lifetime when they approved the Desert Wilderness Protection Act. "Instead of voting on the Desert Wilderness Protection Act, Congress should be convening a criminal investigation," said Donald Fife, spokesman for the National Association of Mining Districts.

Fife was commenting on recent information that indicates tens of billions of dollars in gold deposits and huge real estate swindles may be the motivating factors behind the act.

Sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein, the Desert Wilderness Protection Act and its companion bill known as the California Desert Protection Act created e three new national parks and seventy- four new wilderness areas in the desert of California that total 8 million acres (an area the size of Maryland). This closes acreage to development, forces out private owners within the protected area and closes mines and ranches. It also expands the Death Valley and Joshua Tree national monuments and upgrades them to national parks.

This is the largest wilderness land lock-up since the 1980 Alaska Lands Act; largest ever in the lower 48 states.

Senator Feinstein contends that the fragile ecosystem of the desert must be protected from development, but in reality the areas being placed into park and wilderness closures are not threatened. In 1980, the California Desert Conservation Area Plan was enacted to protect the desert and it has been rigorously enforced by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Furthermore, the designated acreage mentioned in this bill have largely been for sale at bargain prices for over 100 years with no takers because there is absolutely no water or any prospect of water for development.

It seems that the real motivation for passage of this bill lies with the special interest groups that would benefit monetarily.

Through a complex series of land exchanges, Catellus Corporation, a subsidiary of Santa Fe Pacific, will receive land that contains some of the richest gold deposits in the world.

In exchange, the public gets seventy-four widely scattered tracts of desert which have found no economic use in more than a century. These properties will be maintained at public expense; Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt claims resources within the National Park Service are available for this to be accomplished. In actuality, Congressional figures show that the National Park Service currently faces a 37-year back-log in construction funding, a 250-year back-log for land acquisition, and a short-fall of $400 million for existing park operation and maintenance. Catellus owns over 400,000 acres of worthless land in the California Mojave Desert.





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