By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Robert A. Lovingood joined Congressman Paul Cook Wednesday in testifying in front of a Congressional Subcommittee in support of Cook’s bill to balance conservation, off-road recreation, mining and Route 66 preservation.
Cook’s bill, HR 3668, the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act, preserves the long-standing multiple-use approach to the desert. Cook’s bill is an alternative to both a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein as well as a likely presidential executive order now under consideration by the White House. An executive order under the Antiquities Act would bypass Congress, would not be transparent and would include scant public input.
Cook’s bill “is a balanced approach that protects our desert while also protecting mining jobs and economic opportunities,” Lovingood told the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. “It strikes a responsible compromise among recreational activities and environmental preservation, while protecting existing uses. Unlike a possible presidential executive order this bill is good policy because it incorporates the voices of local residents and elected bodies. And it maintains the long-standing philosophy that the desert is a land of many uses. In addition, many provisions in the bill cannot be accomplished by Executive Action alone, including the designation of Off-Highway Vehicle areas.”
According to Lovingood, OHV recreation has an economic impact of at least $70 million to the County and supports numerous small and rural businesses. He praised Cook for protecting those areas in the bill.
Rep. Tom McClintock, chairman of the House subcommittee, said that the public has a right to its public lands. He also noted that presidents have stretched the Antiquities Act far beyond its original intent.
Lovingood said more than 80 percent of San Bernardino County is owned by the federal government. With more than 100 mines in the County, Lovingood noted that the mining industry provides a wide variety of materials necessary for infrastructure, economic growth, national defense, and countless consumer products. Lovingood cited Castle Mountain Mining Company’s (NewCastle Gold Ltd.) renewed gold operation at Castle Mountain, northeast of the current Mojave National Preserve boundary. When the mine scales up to full production in the next phase, the County anticipates the operation will become the second-largest gold mine in California, creating approximately 300 full-time positions with a direct tax benefit in excess of $225 million to the County. Cook’ bill incorporates the Castle Mountains area into the Mojave Preserve; half immediately and half after mining operations cease.
Lovingood told the committee that San Bernardino County contains the longest stretch of Route 66 in the country. The County needs to replace more than 120 timber trestle bridges, which are all more than 80 years old, yet still require individual environmental clearances. Cook’s bill, he said, would consolidate the environmental reviews for the trestle bridges on Route 66, providing much needed regulatory relief to address needed repairs. The bill would also enhance public safety, and the experience for Route 66 travelers.
As opposed to designating a national monument that would withdraw public land from mineral entry, H.R. 3668 establishes the Mojave Trails Special Management Area that protects existing mining operations and allows for future mining exploration as long as mining projects never exceed ten percent of the total acreage.