Threats to the Forest
Numerous threats challenge this special forest. Development of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a dude ranch, several helicopter tour companies, and the construction of a straight, modern highway to replace Diamond Bar Road are drawing increasing numbers of visitors to this captivating area. Now is the time for good decisions to be made to ensure the area’s future appeal. The almost unbroken sea of Joshua Trees, now visible from Diamond Bar Road as the visitor approaches the Grand Canyon, is an important scenic component of and introduction to this area, and should be preserved.
The networks of hiking trails of five or so years ago have morphed into ATV trails of four to seven feet wide. BLM officials refer to this change a “spidering,” and point out that all current roads in the ACEC are considered “motorized,” so these changes are inevitable. ATV’s are here to stay, so local ATV groups are working diligently to educate the public in their proper use and contain the damage. Of special concern is that the power, weight, and knobby tires of these machines make incursion into virgin desert quite easy and the damage is substantial, especially to vegetation.
Major mining corporations and private claim holders hold mineral rights in the area. Historically, most of the successful gold and gravel mining has been west of Pearce Ferry Road and the Joshua Tree Forest. The resulting and quite visible gravel pits, exploratory mines and roads to them, plus the unreclaimed mines of yesteryear stand in silent testimony to the damage that can be caused by mining. Local opinion has it that this “west side” is for gold mining and that these activities are acceptable in this area. A considerable number of local people enjoy prospecting with metal detectors and shovels, a relatively harmless activity. The scarcity of such deposits in the ACEC is simply the area’s good fortune, and probably why we enjoy a mostly intact forest today.
Insensitive planning and grading of grid-style subdivisions directly west of the ACEC in the 1960′s resulted in the unnecessary removal of thousands of Joshua Trees and created subdivisions with roads that wash out each monsoon season and a large percentage of unbuildable, valueless lots. It is essential that such simple-minded mistakes not be repeated in adjacent, as yet undeveloped areas. Due to the need to haul water from community wells, most homeowners have wisely left native vegetation as landscaping. Privately held lands within the ACEC are only more remote, and frequently without access, making home building difficult or impossible.
Together, we can ensure that the Arizona Joshua Tree Forest is permanently protected and remains an important asset for the Meadview community, the State of Arizona, and our country.