Contact: Teresa Schilling 415/977-5508 or Roni Lieberman 202/675-7903
Washington, D.C ... Calling passage of the California Desert Protection Act the
greatest wilderness and parks victory for the lower 48 states, the Sierra Club praised
desert champions both in and out of Congress for the 11th-hour passage of the measure.
"This is the fruition of two decades of activism on behalf of desert
protection, "said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "That
we got it through the worst environmental Congress since the first Earth Day is a tribute
to grassroots activists across the country, and to the leadership of Senator Dianne
Feinstein and Representatives George Miller and Rick Lehman. "
"The Desert Protection Act safeguards more publicly owned land in the lower 48
than any single measure since the original wilderness act," Pope said. "In
taking this extraordinary step, Congress has broken its gridlock and complied with the
clear wishes of the American people. Those in the House and Senate who voted for this bill
can hold their heads high as this Congress adjourns."
Adding to the luster of the legislative triumph, Sierra Club leaders said, was the fact
that the Desert Act had to survive this year's record-setting filibusters by
obstructionists in the Senate. "A handful of Republican senators have tried to
bring the 103rd Congress to a grinding halt -- the Desert bill is one of the few survivors
of the scorched earth of this Congress," said Debbie Sease, the Sierra Club's
legislative director. "Senator Feinstein and Congressman Miller have broken a
decade of desert gridlock."
"I've been working 20 years for this day, it marks the sunrise for desert
protection and the sunset for desert abuse.," said Elden Hughes, longtime desert
activist from Southern California. "It is also a continuation of America's
longstanding love affair with wilderness."
"Hats off to Senator Feinstein, she has created a desert legacy for California
and the nation," said Marty Hayden, Sierra Club's Washington Representative.
The California Desert Protection Act is the largest wilderness measure in the lower 48
states since the original wilderness act in 1964. It adds almost 7 million acres of land
to wilderness. It creates two new national parks, Death Valley and Joshua Tree, which
currently are national monuments. In the East Mojave it create the Mojave National
A terrain filled with spectacular mountain ranges, monumental sand dunes, the world's
largest Joshua Tree forest and thousands of archeological sites, the desert is also home
to more than 2000 distinct species of plants and animals, including the threatened desert
tortoise, and to the largest living organism -- the creosote ring.
The Sierra Club is North America's largest grassroots environmental organization . Its
half-million members work to protect the environment and public health.
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