Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
NEWS RELEASE For immediate release: Wednesday, October 17, 2001
CONSERVATIONISTS SEEK DESERT PROTECTION MEASURES IN DEFENSE LEGISLATION; MEMBERS OF CONGRESS RECEPTIVE TO THEIR CONCERNS ABOUT FT. IRWIN EXPANSION
On October 12th, a coalition of conservation groups throughout California and the nation sent a letter to members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees voicing their concerns regarding the Defense Authorization legislation. The legislation would expand the Armys already huge Fort Irwin tank base, located northeast of Barstow CA.
As American conservationists, we want our military to be prepared to defend our beautiful country. Meeting the need for national security, however, need not come at the expense of endangered species and environmental protections, the letter states. The expansion would end conservation of 110,000 acres of spectacular and botanically diverse wildlands in the California Desert, including lands Congress has identified as meriting wilderness protection.
Fourteen conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Species Coalition and the California Wilderness Coalition, are urging Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to incorporate changes into the Defense Authorization legislation. The changes they hope to see include those that would offer greater protection for the federally threatened desert tortoise, endangered Lane Mountain Milkvetch and over 350,000 acres of potential wilderness areas.
We do not support Ft. Irwin expansion as proposed, said desert ecologist Daniel Patterson, of the Center for Biological Diversity. Tanks would wipe out the Lane Mountain milkvetch, many wilderness areas, and the desert tortoise in the west Mojave. He adds, We do not favor this legislation, but if Congress feels it must give the land to the Army now before environmental review, then they need to include much stronger mitigating measures, at a minimum.
Members of Congress, including Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Representatives including Susan Davis (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and several others have been receptive to the concerns of conservationists and have also raised concerns of their own.
We are so pleased at the amount support we have received from Members of Congress including both of California's Senators, said Carrie Sandstedt of the California Wilderness Coalition. We truly appreciate their desire to protect desert wildlife and wilderness.