Chapter 12: New City

In 1980, Spring Meadows, Inc sold their water rights and land in Ash Meadows to Preferred Equities, Inc (PEI). The good news about this was that PEI planned to put a stop to all the agriculture that had so extensively damaged this wetland. But the bad news came when PEI announced a development project, called New City. The plan was to build a small city on top of Ash Meadows.

Environmentalists were aghast. This was the largest oasis in the Mojave Desert, and now it was going to be destroyed completely. They immediately established a Nature Conservancy, and fought back to preserve Ash Meadows, so it could be restored to its natural state.

But the executives of PEI seemed determined. They launched a public relations campaign, promoting the proposed development. They spelled out all the practical reasons why this New City would be so beneficial to the Amargosa Valley.

Why, it would bring good-paying jobs to the area. And they pointed out that where water is, life is. It would be a retirement community, where folks who had worked hard all their lives could live the good life, until the end of their lives, in a desert paradise with a warm, sunny climate.

There would be houses, golf courses, shopping centers, paved streets, and sidewalks for exercising the legs. Every house would have a well-watered, beautiful green lawn. And there would be enough water for swimming pools in every backyard, and an artificial lake for fishing and boating.

The vision of PEI was similar to the vision of those who transformed California’s arid Coachella Valley into the verdant country club cities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert.

Their vision of New City gave little consideration to all the many unique species of plants and animals at Ash Meadows, that would very likely go extinct. Because that would be impractical. The practical thing was what all that water could do for human beans.

But the newly-established Nature Conservancy pushed back. They pressed the government to stop the development. And a legal war ensued.

PEI began its tractor work, in spite of the public outcry. They sent in bulldozers, and managed to clear some of the land for new roads and buildings. But that was about as far as they got. As the legal battles heated up, further development was halted.

Finally a reprieve came for all the wildlife in Ash Meadows, and all the people who love nature. In 1984, the U.S. government negotiated the purchase of Ash Meadows from PEI. It was to become a national wildlife refuge.

This is the latest installation of my series, The Amazing Amargosa. Come on back in a few days for the final installation, entitled, Chapter 13: Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Click here to read the previous installation. Click here, to start at the beginning.

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