March 17, 2014

To the Inyo County Planning Department,

the Inyo County Planning Commission,


the Inyo County Board of Supervisors:

This is not my first letter to you, nor, I suspect, shall it be my last. My previous letter of February 26th described in their own words the painters, writers, photographers, composers, and others whose lives have been extraordinarily impacted by the breathtaking open spaces of Inyo County and the Owens Valley. The works of these artists were inspired by the landscapes we call home, and they continue to bring world-wide renown to our county, spurring countless people to visit this remote part of California. I need mention only the photography of Ansel Adams to make this point. These visitors, of course, then proceed to empty their pockets to the benefit of our local economy.

Since publishing this letter, I have been informed that “The past — however beautiful that past may have been — has little bearing on the needs of today and tomorrow.” I trust that the main point of this dissenter’s argument — namely that we ought to ignore our history as we progress into our future —holds no weight in the mind of anyone making decisions that affect our county, especially since we live in the Owens Valley where our history — whether of Los Angeles water extraction or Manzanar War Relocation Center — is influential, important, and known world-wide.

[pullquote]Inyo County has some of the most valuable natural resources anywhere, and further developing ecotourism while remaining vigilant about preservation can make our communities stronger, healthier and more sustainable.
- Mark Tillemans

That said, beauty does matter today. We hardly require history to demonstrate the impact our County’s stunning, open landscapes have on people all around the world. For the sake of saving space, I’ll only share a couple of examples:

Lonely Planet selected the Eastern Sierra as one of the “Top 10 US Travel Destinations for 2013,” calling the landscape just outside this room, “the secret California dream: …the overlooked flank of the Sierra Nevada range, with other-worldly natural attractions and surprises.”

In 2010, New York Times travel writer Vanessa Gregory featured us in her article, “Rugged Country, Rugged History in California’s Owens Valley.” She wrote, “the Owens Valley…shelters marvels,” and she called “the spirit of the Owens Valley” “beautiful and lonely.” While researching her article she stopped and shopped at businesses like Elevation in Lone Pine, the Still Life Cafe in Independence, and Black Sheep Coffee in Bishop, and she encouraged her readers to do the same.

By the way, a study from the BBC shows that from February to April 2013, received 46.9 million page views worldwide. According to its own published statistics, in 2013, TheNew York Times had regular readership circulation of nearly 2 million, and receives 31 million visitors per month. In case this isn’t clear, this means that millions of readers of just these two sources (there are many, many more) have the opportunity to learn about the beauty of the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley. Many, of course, then plan their vacations accordingly, seeking respite and fun in our open spaces, and come spend their money in our communities.

The small businesses these tourists support often grow in the the Owens Valley and Inyo County because of the qualities described in these travel articles. Vanessa Gregory quotes Mr. Petron of the excellent Still Life Cafe as saying, “I was attracted to the desert because of the space.” National Geographic photographer Galen Rowell, founder of the breathtaking Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, called the Eastern Sierra “My favorite place on earth,” and made this the title of his June 2001 article in Outdoor Photographer about moving to Bishop. He also wrote, “my parents took me on a life-changing journey into this deepest valley in America the summer I turned eleven.” On that trip, Galen Rowell saw alpenglow for the first time—something he would later photograph with great success for many years.

By now it must be obvious that the open landscapes of Inyo County and the Owens Valley beckon visitors with their beauty, and some of these visitors become permanent residents who open new businesses. All spend their money in our our towns because they are here to see and experience these stunning landscapes in our backyards.

If anyone here thinks the business of ecotourism—the kind of tourism we offer here in Inyo County—is not profitable, then I’d like you very carefully to consider this quote from 4th District Supervisor Mark Tillemans’ candidate statement, printed right here in the Inyo Register, April 19, 2012:

“One of my primary goals as Supervisor is to seek positive economic development opportunities, while preserving the place we call home… A recent report from the National Park Service’s ‘America’s Great Outdoors’ initiative shows that outdoor recreation is a $135 billion industry, and domestic tourism holds the greatest potential for job growth of any industry within the United States. Inyo County has some of the most valuable natural resources anywhere, and further developing ecotourism while remaining vigilant about preservation can make our communities stronger, healthier and more sustainable.”

Please make our communities stronger, healthier, and more sustainable. Develop Inyo County’s ecotourism potential and preserve the place we call home by saying no to industrial-sized energy developments in inappropriate locations like the Owens Valley.

Thank you,

Rose Masters

One Response

  1. Vickie

    Sustainable communities are not built on tourism alone. There must be support for industry, agriculture, and other businesses not dependent on tourists. The idea that the people of the eastern Sierra can thrive with an economy based on tourism is naive at best, and detrimental at worst. Service industry jobs are among the lowest paying jobs, forcing breadwinners to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Reasonable changes can be made to our landscape and economic base without losing the tourist trade.


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