Please Help Save the Cactus to Clouds Trail (and other trails)

8-mile-warning-rock

Backpacker Magazine says the Cactus to Clouds Trail is the 5th most difficult day hike in America.

Renowned long distance hiker Andrew Skurka lists Cactus to Clouds as one of his top ten favorite hikes.

Here are a couple of my trip reports that included the Cactus to Clouds Trail:

San Jacinto Loop 2009

San Jacinto Loop 2010

The public may soon lose access to this trail in a land deal between the BLM and the Agua Caliente Band of Indians.

In a proposed land swap between the BLM and the Agua Caliente Band of Indians in Palm Springs the BLM wants to trade about 9 square miles in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Preserve for a little over 2 square miles of land currently owned by the Band.

BLM Agua Caliente Land SwapWhat many people do not know is the band already owns about 50% of Palm Springs area land, known as the Golden Checker Board. Indians own every other section of land; the remaining land is privately owned or owned by the Federal Government.

Over the years the Band has leased or developed a lot of the land they own, to include two casinos (one in Palm Springs and one in Rancho Mirage). Also, land held in trust by the tribe is not subject to real estate taxes, local ordinances, or the National Environmental Policy Act: meaning the land will no longer be protected by the public.

Most of the land the tribe will receive will transform their current checkerboard holdings into on large contiguous piece of land, making it easy to develop lands that are currently protected as part of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Preserve. Although there may be development restrictions imposed as part of the land swap, those are easily reversed once the tribe has ownership.

The land swap will give the tribe ownership or areas contain trails or trailheads, allowing them an easy scheme to restrict access or use. There are three parcels of land that if transferred to the band include: Gartsin, Araby, Berns, Shannon and Theilman Trails, a large section of the Cactus to Clouds Trail (also known as Skyline).

Currently the BLM has completed an Environmental Assessment for public input, due to the public uproar over the land swap that has been in the works since 1999.

As presented by Frank Wheat in his book, California Desert Miracle: The Fight for Desert Parks and Wilderness, the BLM has been a poor steward of important public lands and willing to turn our lands over to powerful special interests groups. Please don’t let this happen in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Preserve.

You can send your opposition to the BLM (before March 29, 2015):

Email: AguaCalienteExchange@blm.gov

Fax: (760) 833-7199

Snail Mail:

National Monument Manager

Bureau of Land Management

1201 Bird Center Drive, Palm Springs, 92262

 

For more information on the land grab:

BLM Website

Desert Sun Newspaper Article

 

 

 

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