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NPCA APPLAUDS CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS ON DESERT PROTECTION

 NPCA APPLAUDS CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS ON DESERT PROTECTION
 WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) today applauded members of the California congressional delegation for their leadership in promoting legislation to protect the California desert ecosystem. In the Senate, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) has introduced the California Desert Protection Act. (S. 21), and has made its passage his top priority for 1992. Cranston's bill, similar to a measure passed by the House last fall, designates three desert areas as national parks and identifies another 4.4 million acres of desert land, currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as federal wilderness areas.
 "Protecting the California desert is of crucial importance to all Americans," declared NPCA President Paul Pritchard. "The desert is an ecosystem of enormous biological, scenic and historical importance. It is threatened by poorly managed human use. By passing S. 21, the Senate will assure that these resources are protected as a large ecosystem."
 The Cranston bill establishes a new, 1.5 million acre Mojave National Park, designating 750,000 acres of the new park as wilderness. In addition, S. 21 redesignates the existing Death Valley and Joshua Tree national monuments as national parks, adding 1.3 million acres to Death Valley and 234,000 acres to Joshua Tree. Some 133,500 acres of Joshua Tree and 3.1 million acres of Death Valley are identified as wilderness under the bill. Nearly 4.4 million acres currently managed by BLM would be identified as federal wilderness areas.
 Together, the proposed park units are larger than Yellowstone, the largest national park in the 48 contiguous states. If enacted, the California Desert Protection Act would be the largest land protection measure since the Alaska Lands Act of 1980.
 "Nearly 7.8 million people visited the California Desert for outdoor recreation in 1991," Pritchard noted. "It is important that the best of this tremendous resource, as identified by S. 21, be protected from the relentless pressures of mining, grazing, shooting and the unregulated use of off-road vehicles. Sen. Cranston's bill will preserve these lands, while maintaining access to the recreational and scenic wonders the desert provides."
 NPCA identified the California desert as a high priority for park protection in its 1988 comprehensive plan for the national park system, "Investing in Park Futures: A Blueprint for Tomorrow."
 NPCA is America's only private, non-profit, citizen organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the national park system. Founded in 1919, NPCA today has more than 285,000 members.
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 /CONTACT: Kathy Westra of the National Parks and Conservation Association, 202-223-6722, ext. 1501/ CO: National Parks and Conservation Association ST: California, District of Columbia IN: SU:


TW-MK -- DC026 -- 9245 01/13/92 16:56 EST
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Date:Jan 13, 1992
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