A proposed Mojave Trails National Monument and two other proposed national monuments in California enjoy strong support from residents, according to a poll by Public Opinion Strategies, reported KCET. Vet Voice Foundation commissioned the poll.
An alternative proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.), however, is opposed by two-thirds of Californians.
President Barack Obama may use executive authority to declare a part of Route 66 in the Mojave Desert as part the Mojave Trails National Monument, along with two other areas in California. Required hearings were held to that effect in October. Fourteen of 19 presidents since the birth of the U.S. park system have used executive authority to declare national monuments.
Legislation by U.S. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to create those monuments has stalled in Congress for six years.
Last month, when it became clear Obama was looking at using his executive authority, Cook introduced a competing bill that would make that part of the Mojave Desert a special management area and allow mining and off-road vehicle usage.
The poll on Feinstein’s and Cook’s proposals was conducted in early November. Nine hundred California residents were questioned with a total error rate of plus or minus 4 percent. Public Opinion Strategies is a Republican polling firm. Key findings:
- 75 percent of Californians support Obama declaring the three areas as national monuments.
- Support for the Obama declaration among desert residents was slightly less, at 70 percent.
- The Obama declaration proposal found strong support even among Republicans, at 62 percent.
- Cook’s proposal was rejected by 66 percent of Californians and 65 percent of desert residents.
“This poll shows clear support among Californians statewide and in the desert region for the proposed desert national monuments,” Lori Weigel at Public Opinion Strategies said. “Voters want the President to protect these lands as important habitat for wildlife and so that families and children have places to get outdoors and explore nature. This support is broad-based and cuts across many demographics.”
On a related note, the Victorville city council declined to endorse Cook’s plan after hearing from constituents. An excerpt from the Victorville Daily Press:
Cook’s bill calls for Feinstein’s planned monument designation — 941,000 acres of federal land east of Barstow and south of the Mojave National Preserve — to be a special management area. Yet an SMA designation fell too short of being the significant economic driver that the conservationists believed a monument would be, not only for neighboring cities, but also for Route 66.
“I give tours, and I’ve never had anybody from around the world ask me to come and see a special management district,” said Jim Conkle, executive director of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation. “They come to see national parks and national monuments.”
The poll, plus the frigid reception to Cook’s bill, leads me to believe Obama will make the formal declaration for the Mojave Trails National Monument, and soon.
UPDATE 11/26/2015: The San Francisco Chronicle has a good overview of the issues between the two bills. One interesting wrinkle: Perhaps both bills will be combined into a compromise measure sometime in December.
(Image of the Mojave Desert near Siberia, California, by Patrick Dirden via Flickr)