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Proposed Chuckwalla National Monument & Joshua Tree National Park Expansion

Discussion in 'Off-Roading & Trails' started by ETAV8R, Oct 25, 2023.

  1. Oct 25, 2023 at 12:25 PM
    #1
    ETAV8R

    ETAV8R [OP] Out DERP'n

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    Just the basics
    There is movement to expand Joshua Tree and create a new National Monument adjacent to JT. This could hinder off-road travel in the area. There is much discussion on both sides of this proposition. As always an educated member of society can best influence how things may happen one way or another.

    Article about the proposition:
    https://www.desertsun.com/story/new...ins-steam-with-monument-proposal/70948644007/

    Actual Bill text:
    https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/BILLS-118hr5660ih/related
    https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-118hr5660ih/pdf/BILLS-118hr5660ih.pdf

    Petition against the proposition
    https://chng.it/KjQ2Tx7PMH
     
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  2. Oct 25, 2023 at 12:57 PM
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    turbodb

    turbodb AdventureTaco

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    As far as I can tell, this is one of your favorite spots in the world. What think you?

    Dale Mining District, Bradshaw Trail, etc.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2023
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  3. Oct 25, 2023 at 1:41 PM
    #3
    mk5

    mk5 Probably wrong about this

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    Thumbs down from me... sounds like a solution looking for a problem.

    Doesn't look like it'll have JTNP overtake the Dale District, which would be particularly alarming. Just encroaching on Eagle Mountain... all already inaccessible to vehicles AFAIK. But still, just... no thanks.

    We already have tons of wilderness out there. We already have environmental protection at state and federal levels. What is so wrong with public lands just be public lands?

    According to the article, which is all I read, they aren't even trying to block solar development. They drew the boundaries to avoid areas earmarked for solar. What exactly are they trying to protect or improve then? You can already go out there and enjoy the land. Nobody is destroying it. It's beautiful. Some prime rockhounding out there, too... but nobody's proposing a new strip mine or something else terrible, far as I know.

    The only argument I can't dispute is better involvement of tribes in land management. But I don't see how a national monument is needed to effect this. And I selfishly hope it won't lead to restrictions to present-day recreational land usage.

    When it eventually comes to fruition, I hope the new national monument is administered by BLM rather than NPS.
     
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  4. Oct 25, 2023 at 2:43 PM
    #4
    Stuck Sucks

    Stuck Sucks Aerodynamic styling with functional design

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    We've been camping/wandering in that area for decades, so I overlaid the proposed map just to see what it encompasses.

    The Chuckwalla Prisons are not included, and neither is Chiriaco Summit. The NM lies north of the intersection of the Bradshaw Trail and EMRR. Wiley Well CG and Mule Mountains are included on the east side; the NM is bordered by the Chocolate Mountains Gunnery Range on the south.

    My question is: how restrictive will the proposed future national monument be toward dispersed camping and off roading? Will I continue to be allowed to ride my dirt bike out there?

    Screenshot-2023-10-25-at-14.29.34.jpg
     
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  5. Oct 25, 2023 at 3:01 PM
    #5
    Stuck Sucks

    Stuck Sucks Aerodynamic styling with functional design

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    And what about the hundreds of meth labs out there -- will they be allowed to stay?

    Screenshot-2023-10-25-at-14.58.51.jpg
     
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  6. Oct 26, 2023 at 1:51 PM
    #6
    greymachine

    greymachine @taupetacoma

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    Signed and donated.

    Been wanting to do the Bradshaw Trail for years. I'm determined to do so this season while I can, just in case...
     
  7. Oct 30, 2023 at 1:05 AM
    #7
    mk5

    mk5 Probably wrong about this

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    Right? Are they trying to erase the area's rich and vibrant heritage of crystal meth production???



    Hoping to foster further productive discourse, I spent some time gathering my thoughts regarding this region, enumerating specific concerns about the proposed changes, and considering potential benefits that might result if the proposal succeeds. Don't worry, I've done little research -- this is mostly speculation!

    Please contribute your own thoughts, particularly if you disagree! But do it quick -- next I'm going to write my congresspersons to bitch and moan about this and/or the metric system.

    Special thanks to @ETAV8R for bringing this to our attention!


    Context:

    A coalition is seeking to convince congress and/or the president to designate ~660k acres of public land in SoCal's Colorado Desert, as a new national monument: Chuckwalla National Monument. The proposal also includes expanding Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) to fill in its land holdings to the east, generally surrounding Eagle Mountain.

    I can't gauge the probability of their success, but it seems likely and potentially imminent.

    chuckwalla.png

    This tract of land is bounded roughly by the Colorado Valley to the east, the Chocolate Mountain bombing range to the south, the Coachella Canal to the west, and I-10 to the north -- although it extends across I-10 to the southern boundary of JTNP west of Desert Center, and includes substantial lands north of I-10 to the east as well, including an exclave along the 177 that once served as a WWII training camp. It appears to me that the proposal seeks to designate as much federal land as possible, which is presently administered by the BLM, as part of the new monument, while avoiding lands earmarked for near-term development, such as renewable (solar) sites.

    DSC03818s.jpg
    This is premiere Desert Tortoise habitat!

    There are no major towns or gas stations within... save for Chiriaco Summit on I-10, which would become an enclave within the monument. (This is a major refueling stop along I-10, and also hosts the General Patton Memorial Museum with tons of old tanks and military stuff... but is not a population center.)

    In addition to the freeway, the only other noteworthy paved route within the proposed monument is Box Canyon road at its western periphery, which connects from Mecca to the Cottonwood Canyon I-10 interchange (the southern entrance to JTNP). There are numerous popular hiking trails along this corridor, as well as a BLM campground.

    The ghost town of Desert Center is located where the 177 meets the 10... there are no services today, but it was once a major oasis. Just to its north, and outside of the proposed monument, is the Lake Tamarisk development, which attracts a fair amount of weekend traffic for boating and who-knows what else, but I see a lot of traffic from there these days.

    dc.jpg

    Further north of Desert Center is the ghost town of Eagle Mountain, the site of one of the most prolific mining operations in modern California History. Here, Kaiser Steel mined iron ore at unprecedented scale, fueling America's postwar industrial might for many decades. And there's a reason that name rings a bell... this is where Kaiser Permanente traces its roots, born from the need to provide health care to this hard-working mining community. The townsite and mines themselves are abandoned, but are still off-limits to the public, and are not included in the proposed monument. However, the most prominent public-facing relic of this mining endeavor, the Eagle Mountain Railroad, crosses the proposed monument, leaving us with an impressive trestle across Salt Creek Wash -- one of the region's best-known off-road points of interest. You will recognize this bridge from my profile photo... easily my favorite desert destination -- I go there whenever I can! Sadly, the rails have since been removed, just within the past few years.

    t2.png

    There is a major state prison south if I-10 in the eastern part of the proposed monument (but obviously carved out from its boundaries). And some old mines out there too... but this whole region is essentially uninhabited.


    The primary driving route crossing the proposed monument lengthwise (east-west) is the Bradshaw Trail, which you can read about from this guide book, my trip report, or this other schmuck's trip report. There are few prominent north-south routes as well, but all east of the bombing range (which is not open to the public). Interestingly, there is a bizarre culture of people who venture into the bombing range to collect scrap metal... I highly recommend watching the documentary!

    I hate shitty youtube videos as much as the next guy, but here's my shitty youtube video montage, compiling footage from several voyages across the Bradshaw Trail:

    https://youtu.be/C-NciHJZMGk

    It is a truly remarkable and unique place. It is easy to assume that all desolate deserts are the same... but that couldn't be further from the truth. This swath of Colorado Desert is profoundly spectacular. There is nothing quite like it on earth. Regardless of how our government decides to approach land management here in the future, there is one thing I can say for sure. You should absolutely visit this place!



    Concerns:


    1. Vehicle access. The lands in question contain some of the finest back-country driving routes in California's Colorado Desert. They are already subject to restrictions put in place by the BLM.
    In my opinion, there is not a major problem with off-trail driving in this region, but I fear that the handful of folks to do illegally abuse the lands in their vehicles, will provide the excuse needed to permanently close existing trails... especially the canyons, which are hands-down the best driving routes in the region.

    2. Camping. There are a number of established campgrounds in this district, including a LTVA. But I think most folks here embrace dispersed camping... I certainly do -- there are some truly amazing camp spots out there! However, litter and vandalism are rampant in these parts.

    • Will designation as a national monument lead to a crackdown on littering and vandalism?
    • Or, will they simply crack down on dispersed camping in general?
    • Keep in mind that littering and vandalism are already illegal.
    • (But so is my proposed solution to the problem, which involves sniper drones and body disposal teams.)

    3. Rock collecting. This region has fascinating geology, and has attracted rock hounds for generations. Collecting rocks is one of the most unique and memorable experiences I enjoy whenever I bring new people to these lands. We don't come here specifically for this activity, but it's always a fun and rewarding stop along the way. I know of no other place in CA where you can so productively collect a handful of cool-looking rocks as a quick side-stop on an already epic cross-country adventure. So I'll argue it's not solely the favorable rock collecting opportunities, but their co-location amidst a vast and independently fascinating back-country recreation corridor, that makes this place so special.

    • The Hauser Geode Beds are perhaps the best known gem fields, but there are many others, including numerous private claims.
    • I'm not sure which claims, if any, are patented... but given that this is not a precious metal mining district, I'd assume that most of the claims are on public lands, and thus claim holders would also be negatively impacted if the region becomes a national monument.
    • One example is the Opal Hill Mine -- a private claim which used to allow visitors to dig around for gemstones for a small fee. It's present status is unclear, but multiple parties to this conversation have already enjoyed rock hunting there... here's one example.
    • This is not commercial large-scale mining that threatens the landscape or the environment:
      • On public lands, rock hunting is limited to personal (non-commercial) collecting, using hand tools only.
      • Private claims are not being worked with large-scale industrial equipment... AFAIK they are all dormant. There's a few excavators out there, but nobody is doing anything more than occasionally digging around for cool-looking rocks.
      • The region's only major mine, Eagle Mountain, closed down decades ago, and will never re-open. There are some smaller strip operations visible in satellite imagery, but they too appear dormant, and it looks like the claims have lapsed.
      • Given the extensive environmental protections already in place, and the limited/exhausted resources of any viable economic value, there is simply no threat to this region posed by industrial mining interests for the foreseeable future
      • The future is hard to predict, and if this region turns out to be rich in some new unobtanium that cures cancer, why do we need to immediately and forever outlaw mining today, in a region that is not threatened by any foreseeable mining interests?

    Note that the recently designated Mojave Trails National Monument is presently threating the outlaw the harmless hobby of rock hounding throughout 1.6 million acres of public lands. Rock collecting is not included among the definition of recreational land use in national monuments. So, if this proposal succeeds, we can expect rockhounding to be outlawed here as well.​


    4. Airspace. So far I've only utilized the airspace over these parts with my little flying camera. But this is prime terrain for back-country flying, a hobby which I hope to someday be able to afford. It's bordered by a bombing range to the south, and crossed by several well-used military training routes, so regardless of land status, it will be overflown by countless military aircraft for the foreseeable future.

    • Designation as a national monument could further curtail the dwindling opportunities for back-country pilots to enjoy the vast uninhabited public lands of the American Southwest.
    • Furthermore, if NPS winds up administering it, I won't even be able to fly my stupid little drone there! I realize I sound like a whiny millennial on this point, and I respect and share your well-founded hatred for entitled piece-of-shit drone pilots. (And in my defense, I'm neither licensed, skilled, nor even particularly passionate about flying drones...) But this is a vast extent of empty desert where entitled idiots such as myself can fly our obnoxious contraptions all day long without ever annoying, startling, endangering, or invading the privacy of anyone else on earth, just because of how easy it is to be the only person occupying earth's surface for miles in any direction. (Well, except for the low-flying warplanes... but that's an entirely separate [and deeply alarming] issue.)
    • To reiterate, this is over half a million acres of desolate, uninhabited desert terrain -- not Yosemite Valley. Airspace usage by individuals is not even slightly problematic.
    • By far the most frequent and disruptive use of the airspace comes from military aircraft -- not private pilots or flying cameras. National monument status won't change this.

    5. Historical preservation. There's lots of history out there, but also a lot of garbage, decaying equipment, and abandoned campers. And also, a truly shocking number of boats... miles and miles from any waterways. Obviously, the older the artifact, the more important its preservation. But where do we draw the line? In my opinion, the ruins of relatively modern homesteads, mining camps, abandoned equipment, and yes, even random boats, are part of the unique character of this region. Especially given how well the desert climate preserves things. I fear that future land managers, particularly if empowered by the region's promotion to national monument status, will callously demolish and erase what remains of these more modern artifacts, detracting from the bizarre charm of this desolate moonscape.
    • That's not to say that modern ruins deserve protection more than ancient artifacts... in fact, quite the contrary. I'd just prefer to see everything left alone, and every last tax dollar spent protecting petroglyphs from vandalism instead of demolishing all the abandoned boats that bizarrely dot these deserts.
    • I am alarmed by the active destruction and "restoration" of modern mining sites elsewhere in California, such as within Panamint Valley.
    • Without doubt, it is not cool to dump your trash in the desert, and I pray that every person to so desecrate these lands, from this day forth, shall be cursed with incurable diarrhea.

    6. Effectiveness. Will making this region a national monument actually benefit present and future users of the land, better preserve its history, or improve its many wildlife habitats?
    • Certainly, the proposal would have both upsides and downsides, but I suspect that designation as a national monument will lead to increased crowds.
    • Although this is a vast and desolate region, the more popular destinations already bear scars of over-use and abuse -- including littering, vandalism, and off-route driving.
    • Promotion to national monument status will grant the government far greater authority to further restrict land usage.
    • But, as discussed above, existing regulations already prohibit most (if not all) of the problematic ways these lands are abused today.
    I conclude that what this region needs is not increased regulation, but actual enforcement of existing regulations. Must we drastically and permanently impose new restrictions on our lands, just to get adequate funding for enforcement of existing laws?

    Benefits:

    1. Greater visitorship. This place is amazing, hands down. If calling it a national monument leads to more folks visiting it, then hell yeah. Seriously, if you haven't yet... you should visit this place!

    2. Involvement of local tribes. I can't really comment on this, other than to note that it's part of the proposal, and to agree that it seems appropriate. I would like to think this should be possible without declaring a national monument, but I don't know.

    3. Increased funding. I have no idea if this would be the case. But given that there's no fundamental risk to these lands aside from already illegal activities... well, increased funding for maintenance and preservation of sites, and enforcement of existing laws... would be a good thing!


    To conclude, I'm opposed to this proposal. There is no threat of development or destruction of these lands, other than occasional abuses that are already prohibited by existing laws, and which honestly aren't out of hand as of today. Without doubt, these lands are beautiful and remarkable, and if they were located in the middle of Nebraska, then I'd be calling for their designation as a National Park! But this is the American Southwest, where spectacular landscapes are the norm, and where the public is accustomed to enjoying our vast and fascinating public lands, and where we absolutely don't need any new government regulations disrupting this process.
     
  8. Oct 30, 2023 at 8:07 AM
    #8
    BKinzey

    BKinzey Well-Known Member

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    For whatever "little" research you've done this looks to be a well written and positioned article.

    Thanks for taking the time to write it. :thumbsup::hattip:
     
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