Save the tortoise!

FORT IRWIN EXPANSION, LEWIS LETTER

The following letter was mailed to all members/participants of the West Mojave Plan Supergroup.

Congress of the United States

House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515-0540

October 3, 2000

Dear Michael,

I want to thank you for giving your time and energy to the West Mojave Advisory Council. Because of your dedication and. hard work, we have a very good chance at seeing a final plan that balances the interests of all of the residents, business owners and people who visit our Mojave Desert.

It has become apparent, however, that the plan that is now being developed by the Bureau of Land Management is destined for failure because it does not address one of the most important constituents of the Western Mojave: The U.S. Army and its National Training Center at Fort Irwin.

Despite the Army's long-stated need to expand to continue the effectiveness of Fort Irwin, the BLM has informed me that the West Mojave Coordinated Management Plan under consideration makes no mention of these needs. If this is true and the plan is approved with no mention of Fort Irwin's needs, many of my colleagues and I in Congress will consider it a potential threat to national security and will vigorously oppose its adoption.

Although Fort Irwin covers 642,000 acres, barely half of this is usable for maneuvers. Much of the 153,000-acre expansion that has been proposed by the Army is designated as further buffer zone to ensure that maneuvers will have no impact on the surrounding public and private lands. But the expansion is critical to ensure that the base continues to be the most advanced training center in the world.

The Army has for some time been working with the Department of the Interior to find a way to accommodate both our national security needs and the recovery of the desert tortoise. The outcome of these negotiations won't be known for sometime, but it is clear that the needs of the Army MUST be addressed by any desert use plan.

The BLM has been part of these efforts and is fully aware of Fort Irwin's need to expand. I have personally urged the Bureau to rethink the management plan to ensure that the Army's proposals are taken into account. In the past few weeks, my office has found it increasingly difficult to gain BLM cooperation with this issue. We have also experienced resistance from BLM on resolving other important matters in the Mojave Desert.

I have recently begun a conversation with the new state BLM Director, Mike Pool, who will assume his new responsibility in October and look forward to developing a positive working relationship with hire.

Since the National Training Center for the Army is critical to our continuing to be the world's leader providing for stability and peace in the world, I urge you to give it top priority consideration before any conclusive decisions are made in the final West Mojave plea. I will be contacting you and other members to personally discuss the national importance of accommodating Fort lrwin's expansion needs.

Thank you again for your dedicated involvement in meeting the future needs of our desert lands and constituents. l am committed to work together with the advisory committee to ensure we develop and adopt a plan that will include all of those expected needs, and will be acceptable to the public and the Congress.

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