After winning overwhelming approval in the U.S.
Senate, the California Desert Protection Act is only one vote away
from becoming law. The voluminous bill, which was held up for eight
years by Republican opponents and commercial interests, would
create 74 new wilderness areas, three new national parks, and
protect a total of 6.3 million acres of southeastern California's
fragile desert ecosystems. The measure is strongly backed by the
Clinton administration, and sponsors Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen.
Barbara Boxer, both California Democrats, predict swift passage in
the House. While national environmental groups support the bill,
they worry about some 60 separate concessions from the original
legislation made to accommodate the military, utility companies,
mining interests, ranchers and off-road vehicle groups. According
to the Los Angeles Times, environmentalists will seek to overturn
three of those changes in the House: returning the scenic
290,000-acre Lanfair Valley to the proposed Mojave National Park,
limiting grazing rights to 25 years and placing minor restrictions
on military overflights.