CVIndependent

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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Community Voices

08 Mar 2016
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I shouldn’t be writing this, and you shouldn’t be reading it. Far more pressing issues face our public lands—but a vocal minority is drudging up the long-resolved question of mountain biking in wilderness. They have even drafted a bill for somebody to introduce in Congress—the Human-Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act—that would open wilderness to biking. That means we have to pause and rehash the facts. First, no legal argument supports biking in wilderness. Unambiguously, the 1964 Wilderness Act states there shall be no “form of mechanical transport” in wilderness areas. The discussion should end there, but a few claim that “mechanical transport” somehow does not include bicycles. They allege that the law unintentionally excluded an activity that emerged after it was enacted. Or they tout an early Forest Service misinterpretation of the law, which initially allowed bicycles in wilderness but was corrected more than 30 years ago. The arguments have…
12 Jan 2016
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Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of scofflaw Nevada rancher Clive Bundy, appear to have made an ambitious New Year’s resolution: Force the federal government, which has managed more than half of the American West’s lands for the past century, to relinquish them, at gun point if necessary, to the locals. On Jan. 2, the Bundy brothers and a group of a few dozen or so militiamen and their sympathizers took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon and declared it a safe haven for well-armed“patriots” who oppose federal land management. The group is demanding that the federal government release local rancher Dwight Hammond and his son, Steve, who reported to federal prison on Jan. 4 to finish serving time for intentionally setting fires in 2001 and 2006, burning up thousands of acres of public lands. They also want the government to hand over the 1.7…
12 Dec 2015
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My father’s recent death was not beautiful, and neither were any of the other deaths I’ve witnessed of late. This has left me wondering about a better path. Death is not easy, to be sure, but these were made particularly painful by medical interventions—or perhaps I witnessed the confusion between saving a life and prolonging the process of dying. So I threw a party. Or rather, I held my first Death Café—and it turned out to be a lively, invigorating affair. In Europe, there’s a tradition of gathering to discuss important subjects—a café philo, for a philosophical café, or café scientifique, a scientific café. Now there are café mortel, or death cafés. A death café isn’t an actual place; it’s a temporary event in various locations, such as my home, complete with decorations and, for example, a cake with DEATH: THE FINAL FRONTIER scrawled on top. My gathering included spunky…
08 Dec 2015
What I say will not make me a popular person, but here it is: For excellent reasons, dogs should not be—and usually aren’t—allowed in the backcountry of national parks. Dogs, being predators, bother wildlife even when they’re leashed. Then there’s canine fecal matter, which carries a number of diseases and parasites that may be passed on to wildlife. Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of dogs are not good hikers; their paws become lacerated, and since they sweat through their feet, it is easy for them to overheat. If a dog gets lost or injured, search-and-rescue volunteers may have to risk their lives to aid the animal. This year, off-leash dogs had to be rescued from Volcanoes, Acadia, Kenai Fjords and Yellowstone national parks. There seem to be many people who cannot bear to be away from their fuzzy loved one for the length of a hike in the wilderness, so they…
13 Nov 2015
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When I moved to a small town in the Mojave Desert last spring, I found myself in a new relationship with garbage. There’s some serious junk festering in the sands of the Southwest: toxic dumps, airplane graveyards, nuclear test sites, and so on. An abandoned disposal site in Yuma, Ariz., holds a mountain of toxic e-waste from California. The Mesquite Regional Landfill in Imperial County, near the Mexican border, takes in rail-transported loads of garbage from Los Angeles. And the lonely section of the Mojave between Victorville and Las Vegas is known to be a choice stretch of body-dumping territory. It makes for an odd and sometimes grim American miscellany. But the longer I’m here, the more inevitable the combination of desert and trash seems to be. We live in a country that promises eternal newness. But we’ve never been great at dealing with yesterday’s new––the old new, the long-dead…
26 Oct 2015
Editor’s Note: On Oct. 6, bicyclist Trisha Monroe was hit by a vehicle in Palm Desert. She suffered serious injuries. Monroe was just the latest Coachella Valley resident to get badly hurt on our valley’s roadways while riding a bike. Therefore, the Independent asked Brett Klein and Vic Yepello to write a piece on bicycle-traffic safety. By the way, friends of Monroe have launched a GoFundMe effort. Find that here. The Coachella Valley has long been a place for cars—but we are collectively working to make our infrastructure safer for people on bikes. Making our cities function for pedestrians will also take a significant effort. We want the ability to bike or walk from homes or hotels to shopping, parks, convention centers and meeting spaces, casinos and our neighborhoods. For people on bikes, safety matters, and all of us need to learn, listen and be educated. In the last 10…
16 Oct 2015
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I grew up with guns. I never had one as a toy—I did not have the BB or pellet guns that the other boys got for Christmas or birthdays. I had deadly, violent and powerful guns, for hunting. We were taught that there’s no such thing as an empty gun, and that you never, ever point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill. My first rifle was a 20-gauge shotgun, single-shot, break-open, and its barrel was a cold swirl of metal. I carried it proudly through the deep sagebrush of the Wyoming prairie, following my stepfather and his black Lab, hunting grouse; or through the willows of the river bottoms, hunting ducks. We hunted to eat, and sometimes at dinner, you’d bite on a chunk of birdshot still lodged in the breast of some fowl. My stepfather had seen plenty of violence in Vietnam, and he loved guns.…
22 Sep 2015
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The struggle to gain protection for critical land and water resources, wildlife, Native American cultural sites and spectacular landscapes within the California desert has gone on for more than a decade. With support from a wide group of constituents, including off-roaders, businesspeople, faith leaders, conservationists and veterans, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has developed strong, balanced legislation—but Congress has been either unwilling or unable to act. Her latest proposal, the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act, hasn’t even been scheduled for a committee hearing, and no bill was introduced in the House. So, the senator pushed forward to safeguard our precious public lands by asking the president to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to declare three new desert national monuments—Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. The responses from editorial boards at The Desert Sun, The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and the Orange County Register were disappointing and perplexing. While…
15 Sep 2015
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We had barely covered the first 10 miles of trail, hiking north from the California-Mexico border, when my hiking partner, Flash, and I found the first Pacific Crest Trail casualty. A man in his 20s, face flushed red from heat, watched us approach with clear embarrassment. He sat in a small patch of shade next to a pack bristling with a solar charger and the latest, most-expensive gear. “You wouldn’t happen to have any water, would you?” he asked. Flash and I eyed each other. We were each carrying six liters, enough to easily take us the first 20 waterless miles to the Lake Morena campground. We had planned our water carry days before: One liter for every five miles, with a little extra to account for the heat. It was before noon, and a big climb out of Hauser Canyon awaited us. How much could we spare? It was…
11 Sep 2015
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As I watched thousands of the faithful cheer ecstatically at the release of Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis, I felt both revulsion and empathy. If I’m being honest, the revulsion and the empathy were not in equal parts. To be clear, my empathy is with the faithful—not Ms. Davis, nor the politicians using her gambit for their own electoral power grabs. I believe that, for many, religion is a balm, something that provides genuine comfort and guidance. I honor and respect that. I also happen to believe that, for some, religion is a convenient cloak behind which bigotry in its most virulent forms finds justification. Ms. Davis is a four-times-married, fairly recent convert to Apostolic Christianity. She is also, paradoxically, a Democrat—although we shouldn’t be so surprised. Southern Democrats have been their own rare breed for decades now, so it’s no surprise she is not part of the Bernie…