Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Interview with Curt Sauer--Part II

In Part I of our interview, I talked with Curt Sauer, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park, about how he came to work here, what his job is like, and favorite visitors' sites. Check it out if you missed it.

Allison: Curt, what do you take pride in at Joshua Tree National Park?

Curt: That people love Joshua Tree National Park. Old-timers still call it The Monument (the park was a National Monument until ...). That's an amazing statement for a superintendent to be able to make.

Allison: Talk about the Centennial Act.

Curt: To prepare for the National Park Service's 100th annivesary in 2016, Congress recently passed the Centennial Act, the first of ten years of additional funding, with a $100 million base this year alone--over and above a cost-of-living increase--for the national parks. This will enable us at Joshua Tree to double our volunteer staff by 2009 and hire 14 additonal employees for six months to work in the areas of interpretation, ranger patrols, and maintenance. Maintenance is crucial to help preserve the park.

Allison: What are your concerns regarding Joshua Tree National Park?

Curt: I'm concerned that Joshua Tree National Park park will become an island surrounded by human development and walled communities, with population growth specifically increasing outside the north and south park boundaries. Wildlife will not be able to migrate and move through those communities. In the next ten years, 100,000 people are expected to move into the Morongo Basin. The coming arrival of a Super-K and a Super-Walmart predicts future growth. The cities of Yucca Valley and 29 Palms would also like to preserve those open spaces.

Allison: What other concerns do you have regarding the park?

Curt: The proposed Eagle Mountain landfill would put garbage in the middle of pristine land. In Paradise Valley, north of the Interstate 10 in Pinkham Canyon, four miles from the park, plans were underway for a community of 30-40,000 people. Feral cats, domestic cats and dogs, and the lights at night in that community would impact the park's insects and owls.

Under Keys View, in the Joshua Hills near Thousand Palms oasis, another development is being planned in a sand migratory pathway, the oasis and habitat of the fringe-toed lizard. In pioneer times, it would take days to make it through the sand dunes from Keys View to Thousand Palms.

By 2017, in Ivanpah, Nevada, when the Ivanpah ValleyAirport is in operation, it will grow larger than Las Vegas's McCarran Airport. According to a state report, an additional 8 million people will move into Southern California from Bakersfield south. They'll need to recreate somewhere. Mountain lion, deer, and bobcat populations will not be able to go into the San Bernardino Mountains, a wildlife corridor.

A DWP Green Path is in the works, which will be a 200 foot tall, 500 kilowatt transmission line that will start east of Highway 62. Gained in part through emiment domain, the line will run through Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Pioneertown, and feed into Victorville. The term "green" is a misnomer. Only 20% of the energy will come from geothermal solar fields near the Salton Sea and the Imperial Valley. It's the cumulative effect of all these things that will impact Joshua Tree National Park.

Allison: What renovations are taking place in the park in the future?

Curt: We will be using $17 million of federal funds to repair roads to Route 12 and to Keys View Road. By 2011 we'll start to work on improvements on the portion of the park road to Cottonwood.

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