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Threat is seen to Mojave Desert

SACRAMENTO, April 18, 1970 (UPI) -- Smog, motorcycles, waste disposal and construction threaten to destroy California's "constantly shrinking" desert, the federal Bureau of Land Management says. The bureau recommended an $18 million five-year program to rescue the 25,000-square-mile Mohave Desert, which it called "an exhaustible source of multi-million dollar magnitude and an environment with an important impact on millions of people."

"Try to picture the California desert not as a vast expanse of open space, but as a constantly shrinking landscape, surrounded by sprawling cities," it said.

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"Poised like some gigantic tidal wave" are the 11 million people of the greater Los Angeles area, the report noted. "Nowhere else in the world are so many people in a position to exert such a dramatic impact on a similar area of undeveloped land.

"We are beginning to see the effect of smog on the edge of the desert. Even here there is not room to dilute the ravages of poisoned air."

The 70-page document issued by the California office of the BLM recommended that the US Department of Interior:

--Collect "basic data" about the desert. The area "has never before been considered as a whole," it said, calling present information "fragmented, incomplete, unrelated."

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--Set up a "uniformed protective ranger patrol" in the desert, made up of BLM officers with "law enforcement authority."

--Draw a coordinated plan to set "policy and guidelines" for total environmental planning and use of the desert.

--Invest in "emergency protective construction to save values now in serious danger." It said "this must be accomplished as soon as possible."

"Indiscriminate off-road vehicles use, improper grazing, careless mining operations and unplanned construction, including road building," are among the greatest threats to the desert pointed out by the report.

The Southern California desert in recent years has become a favorite running area for trail bikes, four-wheel drive vehicles and dune buggy enthusiasts.

"Some areas are already being heavily used for recreational pursuits in an uncontrolled manner that will spoil or destroy them," the document said. "They are being destroyed by lack of sanitation facilities and litter.

"Unless we act soon, the desert faces damage and destruction because of people pressure," it reported.

"Penalties of inaction" could include extinction of rare animals and plants and loss of the last traces of the Old West and Indian heritage.

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