Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Proposed Fort Irwin Land Acquisition

Bureau of Land Management Congressional Hearing

Thursday, February 20, 1997, 2:00 P.M.

Community Center, Baker, California

Before John Skibinski, Hearing Officer

Transcript of Proceedings

Reported by Lillian G. Hopkins, CSR No. 8722

         Mr. Iwerks:  Thank you very much.  My name is Larry Iwerks.  I’m visiting from the Santa Barbara area on the coast.  I thank you very much for this opportunity to speak on behalf of Public Lands.

         I appreciate all the local people here that take care of the Public Lands as well as you do and for the Army’s care for what they say they take care of certain areas there.  I appreciate that because Public Land belonging to all Americans, we really appreciate the fact that you take care of it.

         I’m here in support of the No-Action Alternative.  I think that this is a good alternative because it gives us more time to think about these problems, this issue.  One of the difficulties that I find right now is that the Report’s out, we only have a limited amount of time for Public Input, and that they’re at certain locations during the week.

         I would like to request at this time, if I may, a 60-day extension on the Public Input.  And I would also like to request would it be possible that we have a hearing in the tri-counties area -- Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo Counties -- because there’s many people that I know that would like to testify that cannot come to this meeting.  So I would also like to ask, beyond Barstow, if it’s possible we have another meeting on the coast.

         As far as the Army goes, the reasons why they wanted to have the Expansion Plan, they say that they require safety of personnel.  And I have to argue with all the people that are coming through the National Parks these days and all the local citizens, that it’s not exactly safety of the civilian personnel.

         Number two, they mentioned protecting the Land.  And if it’s true that they do protect the Land at the Base, would the Army consider a trade for areas that we deem as protected?  I don't see any loss -- or, they don’t take off their map the areas that they’re not using.

         As far as the underpasses go along Highway 127, I’ve tried to drive that highway in rainy years; the Mojave River will cross the highway.  I don’t think that an underpass, necessarily, if it’s going to work.  It would be underwater in certain months of the year.  So in other words, we’d have overpasses creating more of a visual block to the National Park.

         I like the idea that as Americans, we’ve agreed to protect certain areas because of their beauty and that we all as a Nation have decided that we would develop some areas and that we would protect some areas.

         And Death Valley’s a beautiful Park, and I think that it’s important to have a corridor of protection as you enter the Park.  And so the Valjean-Siluran Valley, Avawatz Mountains as a W.S.A. (Wilderness Study Area) does offer that care for the Park.

         And it would seem strange to me that our 18-year-olds who we train to love our Parks and to care about the Land, go to church and what not, at age 18, we teach them to drive around and wreck an otherwise pristine area, which I know this area to be, pristine.

         If I may, just for a moment, I would like to read something from the Desert Protection Act, "that the Congress has declared that the wilderness is a distinguishing characteristic of Public Lands in the California Desert, one which affords an unrivaled opportunity for experiencing vast areas of the old west essentially unaltered by Man’s activities, and which merit preservation for the benefit of the present and the future generations.

         “The wilderness values of the desert are increasingly threatened by, and especially vulnerable to, impairment, alteration, and destruction by activities and development, and that the preservation of desert wilderness necessarily requires the highest form of protection and designation and management.”

         “The Public Resources of the California Desert now face, and are increasingly threatened, by adverse pressures which would impair, dilute, and destroy their Public and natural values.

         And so it’s for these, and for many other reasons -- my five minutes is up, but I appreciate your patience that I can have a moment to talk with you about it.  Thank you very much.

Larry Iwerks, Landscape Painter