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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Every Square Inch: The Fight for the California Desert

  • Author(s): Argandona, Monica
  • Advisor(s): Anderson, Eugene
  • et al.

The Mojave Desert is one of the harshest and yet fragile environments in the western hemisphere. It has been exploited for its natural resources through mining and grazing, serves as a military mecca with large bases and training grounds, and is used for recreational purposes such as hunting, camping, and off-roading. For some, this place is a wasteland - hot, barren, worthy only of trash dumps, open-pit mining, and raceways for off-road vehicles. For others, it is a place of spiritual renewal - serene, remote, challenging, peaceful, and mysterious. Yet for others, it is the solution for our energy problems - full of clear skies and nearly year-round sunshine ready for us to harness and send to the urban centers as a clean and renewable energy resource. The demand for each of these competing uses has created a battle over public lands in the desert. As an employee of non-profit environmental group I was intimately involved in the issues and conflicts affecting the California desert. This is an ethnographic study of the process and negotiations that led to federal legislation designed to help resolve and mitigate many of these conflicts. The issue of the federal lands and the desert is not a matter of ownership, but rather of control, access, and use, and this study looks at those key concerns in this fight over the Mojave.

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