Senator Dianne Feinstein’s enduring federal land protection legacy
With the passing today of California political giant Senator Dianne Feinstein, CalWild would like to recognize her extremely impressive achievements in winning permanent protection for federal land conservation here in the Golden State.
Senator Feinstein had an unshakable dedication to protecting the public lands of the California desert and that led her to author and doggedly pursue two federal land conservation bills through Congress that designated over 8,110,000 acres (over12,673 square-miles) as “wilderness,” the highest form of protection available for federal lands under the law. This represents over 52% of the 15,419,619 acres (24,093 square-miles) of wilderness in the state.
Senator Feinstein also championed the establishment of the National Park Service’s (NPS) 1,487,034-acre Mojave National Preserve, elevated the then-Joshua Tree National Monument to park status and enlarged it by 234,000 acres (over 365 square-miles), and upgraded Death Valley National Monument to a park and enlarged it by 1,328,399 acres (2,075 square-miles). Most recently, she led the effort to establish the NPS’ 20,900-acre (32 square-mile) Castle Mountains National Monument in the Mojave National Preserve. In all, Senator Feinstein succeeded in protecting over 3,049,000 acres (over 4,764 square-miles) in desert region NPS holdings which represents 42% of all the lands the agency manages in California.
Senator Feinstein was instrumental in convincing President Clinton to establish the California Coastal, Carrizo Plain, Ford Ord, and Giant Sequoia National Monuments and in winning President Obama’s support for establishing the 154,000-acre (240 square-mile) Sand to Snow National Monument and, largest of all, the 1.6 million-acre (2,500 square-mile) Mojave Trails National Monument.
Senator Feinstein always supported former Senator Barbara Boxer’s federal land protection bills as well and they worked to protect over 1,319,000 acres of wilderness and several monuments outside the desert.
CalWild appreciated the fact that Senator Feinstein and her staff always held us to the highest standards by demanding that we develop a compelling case for protecting a particular area and required us to exhaustively “show our math” in everything from developing maps to building strong and diverse local support in the affected regions. Once convinced, as the statistics above demonstrate, she was an unwavering ally and advocate.
Outside of the legislative realm Senator Feinstein and her staff could always be relied upon to fly to the defense of the California desert when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in particular proposed misguided development. She was thus essential in pushing the BLM to develop pro-conservation plans, most notably the California Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that protected 6,527,000 acres (over 10,198 square-miles) of BLM holdings and limited energy development (a major threat to the region) to 388,000 acres (606 square miles).
At CalWild over the years, we only half-jokingly called Senator Feinstein the “Queen of the Desert.” Today, we mourn the passing of the region’s most ardent and dedicated elected champion.