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Bill Filed to Allow More Mining, Block Monument in Mojave Desert

A bill introduced Thursday in Congress would allow mining in an area of the Mojave Desert that is already part of a proposed National Monument. Credit: Ryse Lawrence.
A bill introduced Thursday in Congress would allow mining in an area of the Mojave Desert that is already part of a proposed National Monument. Credit: Ryse Lawrence.
October 2, 2015

BARSTOW, Calif. – Mining exploration would be allowed in an area of the Mojave Desert deemed sensitive by environmental advocates if a bill introduced Thursday in Congress passes.

The California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., would allow 150 square miles of mining within the Mojave Trails area, a 1 million-acre section of pristine desert between Twentynine Palms and the Nevada border.

Jim Mattern, who has written several books on the Mojave Desert, opposes the bill.

"Cook's bill will offer the opportunity for new mining claims, which really puts the areas into jeopardy," he says. "If you want to see land remain unscarred for future generations, then Cook's bill is obviously not the way to go."

Mattern prefers a rival bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would establish a National Monument at Mojave Trails while allowing existing ATV and salt and gold-mining operations to continue.

The Mojave Trails area connects Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. It also contains the longest undeveloped stretch of U.S. Route 66 in the country.

Frazier Haney, conservation director for the Mojave Desert Land Trust, says Mojave Trails is a special area that must be protected.

"Not only are there several species of rare and endangered plants, there's also species being discovered that are new to science," he says. "The California desert is really a biological frontier for discovery."

Cook's bill specifically would prevent President Obama from using his powers under the Antiquities Act to declare a National Monument at Mojave Trails. It also would lift environmental protections for a large area of Inyo County.

Cook's bill soon will be available online at cook.house.gov. Feinstein's bill is available at feinstein.senate.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA