Southern California, with its Mojave, Colorado and Great Basin desertscapes, offers so much more than simply national park lands for recreationalists. The National Parks Conservation Association, in recognizing the possibilities, has just released a recreation field guide to the sprawling region.
It's a 60-some-page guide that explores human-powered as well as motorized recreation options and tosses in some unusual desert offerings, such as rock climbing and bouldering, rock-hounding and caving, even fishing and hunting.
Traditionally, you would expect a guide like this from the federal or state land-management agencies. But you know how things are -- money is tight just about everywhere. Fortunately, NPCA was able to step in and provide a first-rate guide that, while not all-encompassing, does a very good job at scratching the surface and pointing you in the direction of additional resources.
Right here in one guide you can learn about landsailing, boating, horseback riding, mountain biking and stargazing in the desertscapes.
Along the way to pointing out things to do -- such as hiking the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail or maybe birding in the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge or four-wheeling in Death Valley National Park or the Mojave National Preserve -- the guide tosses in a challenge or two that must be overcome to ensure these landscapes are preserved for future generations to use.
For instance, the guide points out that public land agencies like the National Park Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management are struggling to make ends meet. While user fees help, NPCA says, they shouldn't keep inching ever upwards.
"Daily use fees help fund public lands, but must be kept at a reasonable level that ensures access is affordable to all Americans, regardless of income," NPCA points out. "Though government funds should remain the most substantive portion of any public land-management budget, the growing reliance on private donations and increased user fees is troubling."
Beyond that, population growth and urban sprawl pose threats to these lands that must be checked.
"As urban centers continue to grow, proper planning and responsible use will ensure balanced use of public land in the desert," says the group. "Both motorized and non-motorized recreation can be pursued without any single use overwhelming or encroaching upon another. Resources can be properly allocated and conserved by the integrated planning of all land-management agencies on a regional basis."
It's a nice product from a non-profit. For a hard copy, contact NPCA's California Desert Field Office at 760-366-7785.