1991 Scorecard Vote
This landmark legislation sponsored by Representatives Mel Levine (D CA-27), Richard Lehman (D CA-18), and George Miller (D CA-18) is one of the most comprehensive land protection measures to come before Congress since the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980. The California Desert Protection Act, H.R. 2929, would create a new 1.5 million acre national monument, for administration by the National Park Service, from the existing East Mojave National Scenic Area which is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). H.R. 2929 would also designate 73 BLM areas totaling 4.1 million acres as BLM wilderness. Additionally, H.R. 2929 calls for the creation of two national parks from the existing Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Monuments and expands the boundaries beyond the present Monument areas. These park and wilderness designations would ensure that the fragile and unique natural ecosystems of the desert are preserved for all future generations.
Representative Jerry Lewis (R CA-35) offered a substitute to the California Desert Protection Act, which would have designated only 2.3 million acres as wilderness, instead of the more than 7.5 million acres of new protected areas under the original legislation. The Lewis Substitute (H.R. 3066) is based on BLM's recommendations for wilderness, as well as its management plan for the California Desert Conservation Area; the plan repeatedly ranked mining, grazing, and motorized recreation over wildlife protection. In the Lewis Substitute, too few areas are designated as wilderness, and the areas are too small and widely scattered to sustain ecosystems. These small "islands" of protected natural desert landscapes would eventually be isolated by a sea of development and increasing environmental impacts.
In protecting virtually every resource, the Lewis Substitute would fall short; thousands of archaeological sites and millions of acres of vital wildlife habitat would be left vulnerable under this substitute. For example, while H.R. 2929 provides wilderness protection for 51 areas with important desert tortoise habitat, the Lewis Substitute would only protect the tortoise habitat in nine of these areas. Moreover, the Lewis Substitute failed to designate the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments as national parks. Most significantly, the Lewis Substitute failed to remove the East Mojave from BLM management and place it under the National Park Service's jurisdiction, despite the analysis and recommendations of personnel in both agencies, whose studies found the area qualified for inclusion in the Park Service.
The Lewis Substitute Amendment was defeated 150-241 on November 22, 1991. NO is the pro-environment vote.