Debate over How CDCRA Would Affect California Mining
November 10, 2015
The California desert region has many parks, wilderness, and recreation areas on public lands that attract visitors. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act (CDCRA) of 2015 in an attempt to balance conservation, recreation, and mining. Mining companies, environmental groups, and politicians are debating how the bill would affect mining in the region.
According to a study conducted by the Sonoran Institute, which promotes conservation, the CDCRA would have minimal impact on mining. It found that over the past 40 years, the population in the California desert has grown steadily. Much of the growth in employment and income has come from sectors that benefit from protection of natural and cultural attractions. Over 3.2 million people visited local national parks in 2014, and nearly 4.2 million visited Bureau of Land Management areas in 2013.
The study found that mining has played a modest role in the region’s economy. Only five mining operations in the California desert have more than 100 employees.
The Sonoran Institute found that the CDCRA recognizes and protects existing mining claims and would have minimal impact on current operations. The legislation would honor the 1,176 active claims in the proposed designation areas in San Bernadino County. Other active mining claims are outside the area covered by the CDCRA.
The Sonoran Institute said that mining in the region is influenced by local, regional, and global supply and demand. The group said the availability of public lands for mining has played a smaller role.
Others opposed the CDCRA. In May, a group of over 400 miners, mine owners, and recreationalists voted to boycott Apple Valley businesses after the Town Council supported Feinstein’s bill.
County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood testified before a Senate subcommittee in October to oppose the plan. He said the bill would lead to the closure of the Castle Mountain gold mine, which is expanding to become California’s second-largest mine. It would create 300 full-time jobs and provide over $225 million in taxes to the county.
Representative Paul Cook of Apple Valley introduced a bill in October that he said would do a better job of protecting mineral and mining sites than the CDCRA. He said his bill would also address the need for off-highway vehicle recreation areas and preserve desert areas better than Feinstein’s bill.