Mojave National Preserve (KQED Perspective aired April 2004)
By Michael Ellis
I began going to the so-called Lonesome Triangle in the late 1970’s. This remote part of the Mojave is bounded on the south by I-40 and on the north by I 15 and in between is some of the most beautiful desert country anywhere in the world.
It was managed by the BLM and under their aegis there was grazing, hunting, off road use and large scale mining. In the 1980’s it became a battleground between those of us who recognized its biological, cultural and scenic value and realized that it had National Park status and those who wanted to continue to use it (abuse it, we believed) in the same manner as the previous century. I wrote many letters to elected representatives and encouraged the people I took there on nature trips to do the same.
Finally we had two senators- Boxer and Feinstein – and Representative George Miller who were instrumental in passing the legislation. It is not a Park in the usual sense because of all the compromises that had to be made with special interest groups- hunters, for example. And large areas were excluded due to political pressure from mining interests. And Congress had to deal with us pesky environmentalists. But we finally won 1.6 million acres of desert paradise.
To be honest I enjoyed the freedom that the BLM allowed. We could camp almost anywhere. The roads were rough so it kept many folks away, there were no services, water was hard to come by, the sights were mostly unsigned…basically even at its most crowded at Easter there was no one there- a naturalists paradise!!!
So it was with some trepidation that I revisited the area last month after an absence of 9 yrs. I am pleased to say that the NPS has done an outstanding job of protecting the essential facets that make the eastern Mojave so special. They have not paved any roads. They have kept signage to a minimum. You have to know which road goes to the volcanic fields so this allows the joy of discovery. Most of the cattle are gone and there are still no services. During my visit over Easter there weren’t many visitors, the Park has kept a liberal but wise camping policy and I am delighted to say the wildflowers, bird and reptile sightings were superb. Thanks to the Department of Interior for a job well done.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.