Betsy Perluss, Ph.D. February 28, 2014

Auburn, CA  95602

 

Inyo County Board of Supervisors

P. O. Drawer L
168 N.

Edwards Street
Independence, CA 93526

To the members of the Inyo County Planning Dept:

I am writing to express my disapproval of the proposed “Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment” (REGPA) in Inyo County, which would allow the development of any industrial-scale energy developments in the Owens Valley. My concern is based not only on my personal love for the Owens Valley, but also due to my work and fifteen year involvement with a non-profit, 501(c)(3), organization dedicated to facilitating nature-based experiences for adults and youth, and which is centered in the town of Big Pine, located about 35 miles north of the proposed SOVSR facility.

Our organization serves hundreds of people a year, many that come from all over the world — Germany, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Czech Republic, Ukraine, China, among others. In particular, our European participants say that one of the reasons they chose our organization is because of the location. Truly, they say, there is no place in the world like the Owens Valley. The valley’s rare natural and cultural treasures are unique, something incomparable to their overdeveloped European countries. This is what draws people to this place. In other words, the Owens Valley is special.

As for myself, I do not know much about land use policy, nor the reasons why you are inclined to approve the REGPA.  So, all I can do is speak from my heart. I’ll begin by telling you about when I was a small girl and my father brought me into the Owens Valley. We slept in the campgrounds in Bishop and Independence. We visited Manzanar. We fished the rivers. My father was so proud showing me this place where, as a child, he was also brought by his uncle, driving up from Los Angeles in an old Ford model A, bringing tourists on fishing excursions. That experience with my father changed my life. It instilled in me a love for the natural world that has guided me throughout my career. My father is dead now, but his spirit is captured in the tidal wave mountains of the Eastern Sierra.

And then, in the summer of 2013, I hiked the John Muir Trail, beginning in Yosemite. 211 miles later, I finally arrived on top of Mt. Whitney. There were many more people on the summit than I expected, but the atmosphere was full of excitement. Everyone was thrilled, snapping photo after photo, while gazing down into the deepest valley from the highest peak in the lower forty-eight. It was one of the greatest moments of my life, as I know it was for many of the others. I wonder now what it might be like to hike all that way and to gaze down on a dark mass of solar panels.

I know that I’m being sentimental and that you’re dealing with very practical issues. So, I offer you this. Wouldn’t it be unwise to destroy this rare attraction that draws so many?

Perhaps Theodore Roosevelt says it better, offering his words of warning:

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

If our past president can speak with such sentimentality, maybe feeling – love – has value when making these big decisions. Next time you’re in the valley, please step outside and take a good look around. Imagine your children and grandchildren standing next to you. Imagine telling them how you did your very best to preserve this precious place. Because you love them.

Near the end of his life, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, took a hard look at the urbanized metropolis of Phoenix, AZ and said, “What have we done to this beautiful desert, our wild rivers? What in the world were we thinking?” Goldwater was referring to the Glen Canyon Dam, which he campaigned hard for. He was a believer in progress. Sadly, he deeply regretted his actions and died before he could make any restitution. Please don’t make the same mistake.

I appreciate your attention to this letter.

 

Betsy Perluss

 

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