I have deep roots in Shoshone, a village that lies in the California desert’s beautiful Amargosa Valley and is home to the namesake river that plays hide and seek through its remote, stunning canyons.
As the owner of Shoshone and its numerous tourism-related businesses, I know that protecting public lands is an excellent business investment that is supported by the majority of desert residents.
I supported the designation in 2016 of Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains National Monuments, in part, because I know that when people come to hike, bike, camp, off-road, rock climb or sightsee in the California desert, they also eat in our restaurants, purchase gas and souvenirs, and stay in our hotels.
Protected public lands are powerful economic engines in other ways, too. A peer reviewed National Park Service study found that in 2016, the 4.3 million visitors to the California desert national parks spent $222 million and supported 3,696 jobs.
The city of Los Angeles serves as a major port of entry for throngs of international tourists visiting the California desert.
Other local benefits were made clear in a 2010 Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Use Survey, which revealed that hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles County residents visit “Southern California’s National Park” each year.
And the desert’s spectacular scenery has been important to the film industry, serving as the backdrop for numerous blockbusters including Star Wars’ A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, which filmed scenes in Death Valley National Park.
All of that helps explain why I’m deeply disappointed with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s review of our national monuments. Not only was the review launched under faulty preconceived notions, but Zinke’s memorandum to President Donald Trump is replete with unsubstantiated statements.
Zinke states that some of the monuments under review were created without “adequate public consultation” and weaves a false narrative that local stakeholders opposed the monuments while monument supporters are the byproducts of a well-funded campaign by non-governmental organizations.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is that numerous polls have shown Americans overwhelmingly favor the
protection of their national parks and national
The popularity and economic benefit of protected public lands is evident in my village of Shoshone. We have created a destination for ecotourism, and I currently employ 22 people who work at our inn, gas station and restaurant. Our community has come together to partner with land management agencies to protect endangered species and build birdwatching trails. This year I plan to hire a community naturalist to give tours to visitors.
Zinke’s monument memo shows that he is fundamentally out of touch with the American people. It doesn’t acknowledge the views of business owners like myself, who understand the economic value of our protected public lands.
In the coming months, the Trump Administration will likely act on Zinke’s recommendations.
I think I can speak on behalf of many stakeholders by saying that President Trump should let Zinke’s recommendations die a quiet death and cease wasting taxpayer dollars on this fruitless endeavor.
Sorrells is the owner of Shoshone Village, a gateway community to Death Valley National Park in Amargosa Valley.
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