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Editor Meets with DV Congressmen

Editor Randy Banis with Congressman McKeon editor Randy Banis met with Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon and his staff on February 27, 2007, in Washington, D.C. to discuss issues regarding the management of backcountry public lands in the vast Death Valley region.  McKeon represents California's 25th Congressional District which includes Death Valley National Park, much of the BLM's Ridgecrest, Barstow and Needles field offices, and portions of the Inyo and Sequoia national forests.

Banis discussed ways to return balance in decision making for the public lands in the California deserts, particularly as they affect recreational access for rock collectors, photographers, picnic goers, hunters, historical explorers, and deep backcountry hikers and solitude seekers.  Such visitors have long relied on appropriate motorized access to the backcountry but have lost access to many of their favorite destinations resulting from decades of unbridled road closures and restrictions.

Of particular concern is the recent introduction of Senate Bill S. 493 by Senator Barbara Boxer, which seeks to remove critical motorized access from and additional 2.4 million acres of public lands, including  hundreds of popular backcountry destinations.

Banis explained how the bill, labeled by its authors as the California Wild Heritage Act of 2007, is troubling for backcountry recreationists in the greater Death Valley region.  For example, under S. 493 visitors would loose regular motorized access to a regularly traveled but unthreatened portion of the historic and popular Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad bed, a mecca of sorts for many rail and history enthusiasts.

Friends of Jawbone, Congressman McCarthy
Backcountry visitors would also lose motorized access to the historic Salt Basin in the Avawatz Mountains.  Rock collecting destinations in the vacinity of Baxter Wash, south of Afton Canyon, would also be lost to motorized visitors.  Critical and historic motorized access through the vast and unthreatened Cronese Valley would also be taken away by S. 493, as would access to's favorite road in the Cady Mountains, Hidden Valley Road, which connects the Mojave River to the popular and often visited Mesquite Hills.

Although McKeon's office has not been well consulted by Senator Boxer on this legislation, Banis expressed hope that the Congressman would do his very best to preserve what remains of the limited motorized backcountry access to public lands now enjoyed by his constituents.  Banis is a resident of the 25th Congressional District.

Banis joined access advocates Ed Waldheim, president of the California Off Road Vehicle Association, and Dick Christensen, of the American Motorcycle Association's District 37, in several meetings across Capital Hill.  The three regularly work together on the Friends of Jawbone Board of Directors.