Actors and Others Form Foundation to Protect and Expand National Monuments
also see http://fotdm.org, Friends of the Desert Mountains
WASHINGTON - The San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains - as well as millions more acres of national monuments - could gain extra funding through a new conservation foundation.
Actor Edward Norton, a big supporter of environmental causes, is joining former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who last week announced the creation of the National Conservation System Foundation to raise awareness and funding to protect these lands.
"Many of these special places are not protected in national parks or wildlife refuges," Norton says in a Web video featuring footage of unspoiled Western vistas. "Today, these national treasures face growing threats and could be damaged forever by development, vandalism and neglect."
Those problems are expected to grow as more people move out West, causing lands that were once isolated to fall victim to vandalism, artifact theft and off-road vehicles that trample plants and other wildlife habitats.
Among areas joining the valley's mountains are the rugged plateaus and cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the islands, rocks and exposed reefs that hug California's coast.
Former President Bill Clinton designated the lands as conservation areas during his last term in office. But they have not received the attention or funding they deserve, said Babbitt, who helped Clinton create the current conservation system of lands.
"We can wind up destroying the values that brought us here in the first place," Babbitt said.
In 2000, Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, won designation of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains as national monuments. Bono, a member of a congressional conservation caucus, says more funding is needed to protect the mountains, which are just footsteps from her home.
Last week, she joined Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who has a house in Rancho Mirage, in introducing legislation that would expand the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and designate nearly 200,000 acres of pristine and ecologically sensitive lands in Riverside County for conservation.
The lands protected under the bill provide habitat for threatened bighorn sheep, the desert tortoise and bald eagles.
"If these things ever vanish," Bono said, "they're gone for good."
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