February 02, 2015
Over twenty retired military flag officers urge protection of California desert in letter to Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON, DC – Former top military brass have come together to support introduction and urge passage of the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015 in the new Congress, as shown in a new letter released today by Vet Voice Foundation.
The letter is signed by over twenty retired flag officers, including many with experience at military bases in the California desert such as the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin and the Marine Base at 29 Palms. Members of this group delivered the letter to legislators in Washington, D.C. during a recent visit to the nation’s capital.
“Having public lands protected for varied recreation activities benefits enlisted personnel, veterans, their families, and the entire public,” said retired Army Lieutenant General Clarence McKnight, former commander of Fort Huachuca in Arizona and a long-time veterans’ advocate.
The California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015 would increase protections for about 1.6 million acres of desert landscapes. The bill would expand Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve and also create two new national monuments – the Mojave Trails and the Sand to Snow National Monuments. Senator Dianne Feinstein committed last fall to introduce the bill at the start of the 2015 legislation session.
Led by retired Brigadier General Steven Anderson, the authors of the letter highlight the importance of public lands as places for veterans to recuperate and recreate with family and friends after combat operations. The California desert is such a place, offering hiking, hunting, fishing, off-roading, camping and other recreational activities to a large population of military retirees who live in the region. The California desert also contributes to the well-being of the many enlisted personnel and families at military installations in Southern California.
The letter’s authors put the importance of public lands into context, writing, “In light of the prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and emotional illnesses resulting from over a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, access to places of healing is clearly vital to and restoration of our fighting forces and retired communities mental health.”
The letter also notes that some of the public lands proposed for protection under the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act would provide a buffer from encroachment of development and potentially threatening and/or illegal activities for the 29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and Fort Irwin National Training Center.
The full text of the letter is below and can be found online at http://www.vetvoicefoundation.org/docs/CDCRAFlagOfficerSupportLetter-Jan-2015.pdf.
The letter was delivered to the offices of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Paul Cook, and other members of Congress by veteran members of the Vet Voice Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit organization which has led the way in representing veterans’ voices in the debate over public lands. The group successfully urged protection of public lands elsewhere in California as well as New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, and more.
About Vet Voice Foundation: Founded in 2009, the mission of Vet Voice Foundation is to mobilize veterans to become leaders in our nation's democracy through participation in the civic and democratic process. VVF seeks to harness the energy and drive of the dedicated men and women who have fought for their country, and put it to work at home and in their communities on the important issues they face, such as health care, jobs, the environment, and housing.