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 News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 441

The public is heard at Los Angeles listening session 

“There are more representatives of federal government agencies here today than I’ve seen in my whole lifetime.  And now that you’re all here – could you do one thing?  Could you learn how to talk to each other?”  That thought seem to paraphrase many of the 800 participants in a listening session for America’s Great Outdoors last Thursday at Occidental College in Los Angeles. (text continues below)

A crowd nearly fills the seats in a large auditorium, with several speakers seated at tables onstage

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, among a host of other top government officials, took on a barrage of questions and suggestions from opinion leaders, public-land stakeholders, and the general public.  The session was part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative for hearing the public’s ideas for building a 21st Century conservation and recreation agenda that reconnects Americans with their “great outdoors.”

In the heart of urban Los Angeles, most questions and comments focused on revitalizing the Los Angeles River, enhancing the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and protecting the San Gabriel Mountains.  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issues such as renewable energy, multi-use of public lands, and wild horses and burros did surface, however.

The crowd roared with applause, hoots, and hollers when someone exclaimed, “The Mojave Desert should not become a parking lot for renewable energy!”  Secretary Salazar calmly replied, “We can have both – renewable energy and protect the Mojave Desert.”

Representing the Off-Road Business Association, Desert Advisory Council Member Meg Grossglass told the secretary that a comprehensive Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation management plan was needed for the California Desert.  Secretary Salazar nodded and assured the audience that all comments and suggestions would be summarized in a report to the president due November 15th.

At various times, two opponents to BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program attempted to disrupt the listening session by screaming out, “Wild horses and burros!  Wild horses and burros!”  While the audience hissed and booed the two, the secretary seemed unperturbed by the incidents.

Breakout sessions brought forth the mention of further BLM issues including lack of public transportation outside urban areas that makes it nearly impossible for folks without cars to connect with nature; lack of cycling opportunities vs. OHV opportunities on public lands; fragmentation of public lands; and the environmental consequences of the BLM selling land to expand the city of Las Vegas.

A woman raises her hand to ask a question in a classroom packed with people
a large crowd watches speakers, under a large tent
A speaker, one of several seated at tables, addresses the crowd with the help of a microphone

- David Briery, BLM California Desert District, 7/14/10

BLM California News.bytes, issue 441

Last updated: 07-21-2010