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Don't Bury the California Desert Protection Act in the Sand

The Opinion page article "Who Benefits From Desert Protection?," March 31, attacks the California Desert Protection Act now before Congress. The author says "one section of the act would effectively prohibit all travel, except by foot, throughout the desert." This is not true.

The author speaks of a total lockup of the desert. He is wrong. None of the roads, and fewer than 100 miles of the jeep trails on which I have traveled, will be closed. All wilderness areas can continue to be reached by vehicle, and 85 percent of the area within such wilderness areas will be within 3 miles of a vehicle road or route.

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The California Desert Protection Act will immeasurably benefit the desert itself and the benefits will accrue to its visitors now and the generations of the future. The act will enlarge Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments and designate them as national parks. Their combined 3 million visitors last year certainly were not locked out. The new 1.5 million acre Mojave National Park will be even more accessible.

I have visited the Saline Hot Springs over the decades, and they are most remote and truly world-class. The act places the area under the management of the National Park Service. The NPS can keep the springs remote but accessible. The present management under the Bureau of Land Management has sought twice to lease them out for geothermal development. One ill-placed test could ruin the hot springs forever. Elden Hughes, Whittier, Calif. Chair, Sierra Club Desert Committee

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.


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