October 31 isn't just about pumpkins and goblins anymore. The date also marks the anniversary of the California Desert Protection Act, a major milestone for three NPS sites and for wilderness protection. The day will be celebrated at a special event on Saturday at the Mojave National Preserve.
The California Desert Protection Act was signed on October 31, 1994, and it was a big day for champions of desert parks. The act designated 7.8 million acres of land as wilderness, changed areas previously designated as national monuments into Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, and established Mojave National Preserve.
The 15th anniversary of the Act will be celebrated on Saturday, October 31, at the Kelso Depot Visitor Center in Mojave National Preserve. Kelso is 34 miles south of the town of Baker, California, and Interstate 15. You'll find driving directions to the Kelso Depot Visitor Center on the park website.
"Today, our parks protect cactus gardens and Joshua tree forests, palm oases and sand dunes. By visiting the California desert national parks, you'll witness a remarkable diversity of wildlife, including 100 year-old tortoises and herds of bighorn sheep," said Mike Cipra, California Desert Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "Our national treasures belong to all of us, and this celebration means we as citizens value the protection of these places for our children and grandchildren."
"People from all over the world come to experience our desert, and it's important that we take care of it," said Cipra. "Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, along with Mojave National Preserve, generate more than $100 million in visitor spending each year for our communities. These parks are the lifeblood of our economy, and it's up to us to take care of them."
The free event will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and will feature entertainment by the Fort Mojave Tribal Band and guided park ranger tours. A 1 p.m. ceremony will feature several speakers, including Jim Dodson, who worked on the original California Desert Protection campaign; student advocate Lucas Basulto, speaking about how the desert parks have impacted his life; former Death Valley Superintendent James T. Reynolds; and cowboy poet Rob Blair.
The 15th anniversary celebration will also launch the newly formed, first official "friends group" of the Mojave National Preserve—the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, a 501(c)3 non-profit and co-sponsor of the event.
"The formation of this group is testimony to the growing community support for our Preserve," said David Lamfrom, President of the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy. "If you love the Mojave and feel that it's important to experience this beautiful place, to share it with our youth, and to protect it, we invite you to join our budding Conservancy."
The friends group plans to organize guided spring wildflower tours, hikes with Mojave National Preserve Superintendent Dennis Schramm, night sky viewing parties with world-renowned astronomers, and environmental education programs for youth.
Even if you don't attend Saturday's event, put this park on your "need to see list." Mojave National Preserve is a pleasant surprise for many people who have driven through southern California on I-15 or I-40 without realizing that they are just a short drive from the [url=/2008/10/take-interstate-one-largest-units-national-park-system]third largest unit of the National Park System outside of Alaska.