As visitation to Joshua Tree NP soars, local conservationists step up desert protection campaign
Out on the Mojave Desert Land Trust's Section 33, a 624-acre parcel of desert apportioned by railroad checkerboarding in the 1850s, the trash is everywhere. in every line of sight. Styrofoam, plastic bags, candy wrappers—some of it thrown from the highway, some blown in from the nearby middle school ("It's amazing how much trash they make up there," marveled Adam Henne, a volunteer coordinator with MDLT).
The land is crisscrossed with off-highway vehicle trails—paths of desire that are the result of successive tramplings of the yucca shoots and creosote bushes—even though there is plenty of signage prohibiting anything larger than a mechanical bike. Walk around the area and there's a chance you'll spot a baby desert tortoise shell pecked to death by the overgrown raven populations, fattened by the scraps of food people toss aside. All this on a stretch of Earth that sits opposite the MDLT office, on the edge of the city of Joshua Tree.