Environment | Opinion

Opinion: Land swap for Agua Caliente Band not a good idea

"[W]hen news got out in 2010 that the BLM and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians were exploring the possibility of a land exchange in the hills around Palm Springs, and that the Agua Caliente stood to regain ownership of 9.3 miles of very popular trails, the dust flew.

The Agua Caliente, under the leadership of Chairman Richard Milanovich (who died this week after a long battle with cancer), have been notably entrepreneurial over the past few decades. Most of the Band's income comes from their two casinos and a bit of real estate development. Tribal land is checkerboarded throughout the area in one-mile sections, a legacy of the railroad land grant era. After many years of penury, the tribe now benefits significantly from having a casino and resort in downtown Palm Springs, about half of which downtown is actually on checkerboarded reservation lands.

For those who'd rather be getting fresh air than breathing second-hand smoke at the slot machines, though, the Agua Caliente's most prominent business venture is its management of the local Indian Canyons; Tahquitz Canyon just south of downtown, and the complex of canyons that run into the end of Palm Canyon a few miles further south. There's plenty of great hiking to be found in both places, and the Agua Caliente charge admission fees for entrance. Those fees don't seem to deter one-time visitors, but for locals who like to hike more than once a year, the fees are hefty enough -- ten to twelve bucks a visit -- that most only go there when they have out-of-town guests. Otherwise, locals who crave a glimpse of 60-foot Tahquitz Falls just sidestep the Cahuilla's tollbooth and hike up the South Lykken Trail to a vantage point 500 feet above the falls."

Get the Story:
Chris Clarke: Tribal Land Exchange Clouds Future of Palm Springs Trails (KCET 3/14)

Related Stories:
BLM sets public meetings for Agua Caliente Band land swap (3/7)
Hikers upset over land swap between Agua Caliente Band and BLM (11/4)
BLM extends public comment on Agua Caliente land deal again (10/26)
Opinion: Agua Caliente Band land swap not good for the public (10/5)
BLM extends comment period on Agua Caliente Band land swap (9/14)

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