Weekend warriors fear Washington land grab
could take off-roading off the board

By Perry Chiaramonte
Published October 20, 2015
CLICK HERE to see the original article

A group of off-roaders and others are attempting to fight a proposed designation of three national monuments in the California
desert under the Antiquities Act. (Corva.org)

California outdoors enthusiasts fear Washington is poised to put up roadblocks on some of the Golden State's
most treasured trails by designating three desert destinations totaling more than 1 million acres national

The Obama administration is considering using the federal Antiquities Act to bypass the legislative process at
the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose efforts to have the Mojave Trails and Castle Mountain, both in the
Mojave Desert, and a section of the Sonoran Desert named federal sites were repeatedly blocked by
Republicans. A White House move could put the land under federal control, which critics say could cut funding
for upkeep or even restrict access.

“Bypassing the legislative process using the Antiquities Act would be as disastrous as it is undemocratic,
creating winners and losers with the stroke of a pen,” said Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., who has sponsored a bill
that bears some similarities to Feinstein's, but would ensure off-roading and mining could continue on the land.
Cook’s bill would also allow the state to create water projects for wildlife conservation.

“Any time you take away the consensus of the local community they are left with something they did not ask
for."     - Amy Granat, California Off-Road Vehicle Association

The Mojave Trails lie in the desert of the same name in eastern California and are part of a 140-mile road that
stretches from the Colorado River to Mojave River. The Sand to Snow Monument would cover 135,000 acres
from the Sonoran Desert floor in Coachella Valley to the peak of Mount San Gorgonio, in the San Bernardino
Mountain range. The Castle Mountains lie on the Border of Nevada and California near the famed Joshua Tree
region and reach an elevation of 5,543 feet.

While the Obama administration has not said publicly if the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountain
national monuments will be designated, Feinstein asked the president in August to take the action. The
Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, and gives the president authority to create
national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. It has been
used more than 100 times, including for such landmarks as the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helen's and a stretch
of the Underground Railroad in Maryland. Given that President Obama has invoked the Antiquities Act to name
19 sites national monuments since 2009 and as recently as July, Cook and other critics have reason to believe
the White House could do so again, especially at the invitation of a powerful Democratic ally.

"We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Amy Granat, managing director of the California Off-Road
Vehicle Association, which has been fighting the legislative proposals for two years. "More and more of the
desert is being taken away from the people. If you look at the entirety of the desert, there has always been a
no-win when the Antiquities Act has been put in place.”

Cook supports the designation, but through legislation and on terms that allow current uses to continue. He
said a White House decree based on the Antiquities Act “sets in motion a Washington-based management
plan" that will ultimately leave the recreational area unfunded - and unkempt.
“ ... the roads and facilities will be left to degrade to a point where public use is unsafe or impossible,” he said.
“Anyone who’s read the recent reporting on the newly-created San Gabriel National Monument’s dire situation
can attest to this. Use of the Antiquities Act will create more “orphan” monuments like San Gabriel, this time in
the heart of the California desert.”

One example of the Antiquities Act not helping to improve an area can be seen at the San Gabriel Mountains,
range of mountains located across Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and separates the City of Angels
and the Mojave. It has been just over a year since the White House designated the mountainous region as a
National monument but the area has still not received any federal funding. The 970-square-mile region badly
needed the funding to combat growing blight in the area, but is still plagued by garbage and vandalism. And
with no federal funding in sight, the National Park Service does not have the means for proper upkeep.

Rumors of the act being used first surfaced in August, when Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the President to use his authority to
designate the three locations. (CORVA.org)

Feinstein is not without support in her home state. An Antiquities Act designation for the three landmarks could
actually bolster recreational activities, according to the Campaign for the California Desert.
“The point that Rep. Cook and other opponents of the monument designation are missing is that when our
shared public lands are protected, it’s for the continued use and benefit of all Americans," the group said in a
statement. "It is only when our public lands are sold off or leased by a developer does the public’s access to
our public lands becomes restricted.
More Land Grabs in California:
Targeting Off-Roading Enthusiasts
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