Author: Rohin

Democrats Need Your Help to Win

Rohin Ghosh

May 6, 2018


An event last week at my local Democratic Volunteer Center

Republican house seats won’t flip themselves.  The only way for Democrats to actually win elections in contested districts this November is if concerned citizens actually do the hard work of convincing the electorate to get out and vote.  Candidates like TJ Cox in California’s 21st Congressional District and Andrew Janz in the 22nd and hundreds more across the nation are on tight budgets.  These candidates are showing that they won’t be corrupted by corporate influences by refusing to take donations from corporate PACs but that does make running an effective campaign just that much harder.  The Democrats’ lack of funding combined with Republicans being bankrolled by very wealthy donors means that our candidates need all the help they can get.  If we want to see Republicans like Devin Nunes and David Valadao ousted from their seats, we Democrats need to step to the plate and volunteer for progressive candidates in whatever capacity we can.  If you care about winning back the house, senate, and state legislatures and governorships, find your local Democratic party office and get involved by phonebanking, writing postcards to voters, or even traveling to the districts themselves.  Democratic victories in November are not foregone conclusions.  The disaster that is the Trump presidency was able to happen because not enough Democrats were able to put in the time and effort to ensure victory in elections.  Let us make sure that the 2018 midterms are not a repeat of 2016.

Progressive Democrats have a Real Shot at Winning in Texas this Year


Congressman Beto O’Rourke is mounting a serious challenge to incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

This is huge!

Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat challenging Ted Cruz for his Texas Senate seat is raising more money than Cruz, an incumbent who has name recognition everywhere and the Koch Brothers on his side.  O’Rourke’s campaign raised 6.7 million dollars so far this year with not a single dime from corporate PACs. Beto O’Rourke is using a new strategy to campaign and is visiting small towns and rural areas that are often overlooked by both Democrats and Republicans.  He has drawn large crowds to his events even in places where Democrats haven’t won in decades. Texas is one of the few states that are already majority minority. This means that the non-white population is larger than the white population. If everyone in Texas voted, Democrats would win every election but many young or immigrant Texans either can’t or don’t vote.  In this next election, if everyone in Texas finally makes their voice heard, we have a real chance of putting a true progressive in the Senate from Texas. Beating Ted Cruz will be a very very tough fight but Democrats have a real chance.  


Why it is Time for a New Senator to Represent California


California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (photo credit: Flickr)

This year, California Senator, Dianne Feinstein is up for reelection.  While the senator is widely popular and has supported several progressive causes, It is my firm belief that she is not the right senator for California.  

During her tenure in the Senate, Feinstein has been a strong advocate for sensible gun reforms and has also helped uncover CIA torture and pass legislation prohibiting it from happening again.

On other issues, however, Feinstein’s record is much more moderate or even conservative.  Senator Feinstein was one of the chief architects of the Patriot Act and she repeatedly voted to continue allowing government surveillance without judge issued warrants, something which many Americans maintain to be a violation of their fourth amendment rights.  Feinstein also continues to support the prohibition of marijuana while still advocating for failed drug war policies.

On the issue of healthcare, Feinstein has stated that she not ready to support Medicare For All and right after making that statement, the senator was at a conference with lobbyists for pharmaceutical and health insurance companies.  Senator Feinstein receives only about three percent of her campaign finances from small donations of less than 500 dollars.


Democrat Kevin De Leon is the President Pro-Tempore of the California State Senate and is challenging Senator Feinstein for her US Senate seat. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

While Feinstein boasts a mediocre record, her main Democratic challenger has had a strong progressive record as President Pro-Tempore of the California State Senate.  Kevin De Leon has successfully gotten the State Senate to pass a Medicare for all bill to guarantee healthcare to all Californians. De Leon also helped the Disclose Act, a bill to require political ads to fully disclose all funding, pass into law.  Kevin De Leon was also the leading force in turning California into a sanctuary state and is now suing the Trump administration for abuses of power by ICE. Unlike Feinstein, De Leon supports drug policies which emphasize treatment and decriminalization, not police and prisons.  In the state senate, De Leon voted to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana in California.

These are just a few of the many great progressive accomplishments of Kevin De Leon and he has a similar record on so many issues.  From fighting to eliminate student debt to reducing income inequality to enacting common sense gun laws to fighting sexual harassment in the capitol, De Leon has proved that he believes in progress and has the energy and courage to stand up for what’s right.   

So, when the primary elections roll around on June 5th, we Californians should ask ourselves, do we want a senator who occasionally fights for our values but is often compromised by corporate lobbyist money and has been in office since the early nineties, or do we want a senator who will bring a true California progressive vision of the future to Washington and stand up to the Republicans and the special interest lobbyists.

The US Military is Involved in a Region you Rarely Hear About




A map of the Sahel countries in North Africa. (Wikimedia Commons)


The Sahel has a large American and European military presence but is seldom covered in American news media.  When the region is in the news, it is often due to militant groups like Boko Haram committing horrific acts of terror.  More recently, the Sahel and Niger, in particular, were in the news due to the deaths of four American Army Rangers.   The Sahel is the region of Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, comprising of the countries of Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso as well as the northern part of Nigeria.  This article focuses on events in Chad, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, and regions of Algeria and Libya which border Sahel countries.

Many countries in the Sahel have faced instability since they gained independence from British and French colonial rule in the 1960s.  Much of this can be attributed to colonial powers drawing borders without regard for ethnic and religious divisions.  As a result, several countries in the Sahel have faced ethnic strife which has bred civil war.  The Sahel also lags far behind the rest of the world in most measures of human development.  Mali, Chad, and Niger along with Northern Nigeria and Burkina Faso are some of the worst countries in the world in terms of literacy rate, infant mortality, and access to basic services.  Unstable governments and widespread corruption have also plagued the Sahel and most countries have had one or more coup d’etats since independence.  

Low levels of education, poverty, ethnic and religious strife, and weak governance all have contributed to a significant presence of several militant Islamic extremist groups including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram, and affiliates of ISIS. Islamist insurgencies have existed in the Sahel since the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s however these groups really began to grow in prominence after the 9-11 attacks.  In 2002, the Algerian Civil War ended but the Islamist insurgent groups continued to fight with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in Algeria.  An organization known as the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria or GIA had fought in the Algerian Civil War and became an insurgent group based in the remote deserts of southern Algeria close to the border with Mali and Niger.  For several years afterward, the GIA committed small-scale terror attacks on civilian and military targets and kidnapped citizens of western countries.  Countries around the region began using military forces to combat jihadists in the desert regions bordering Algeria in Mali, Niger, and Mauritania.  The regional coalition fighting against the GIA had backing from the United States, the UK and several European Union countries including France.  In 2006 and 2007, the coalition was successful in forcing the militants to disperse into the Sahara Desert.

In order to compensate for their loss of territory and fighters, the GIA allied itself with Al Qaeda in 2006 and renamed itself Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM.  AQIM also allied itself with another small radical Islamic fundamentalist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram.  Under its new name, AQIM continued attacks against civilians in Algeria, Mali, and Niger until everything changed in 2011.

In the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, the dictatorship in Libya was overthrown and the country descended into chaos.  Groups aligned with Al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups including AQIM began seizing territory in Libya.    Chaos in Libya spilled over into neighboring countries.  At the same time, ethnic tensions in Mali and Niger came to a head when the nomadic Tuareg ethnic group declared an independent state in the deserts of northern Mali and Niger and in southern Libya and began an armed rebellion against the governments of these countries. To add to the chaos,  there was a military coup in Mali in 2012 which is largely blamed on the army’s discontent with the government’s handling of the situation in the north of the country.  In the same year, AQIM and other Islamist militant organizations including Ansar Al-Sharia infiltrated the Tuareg rebellion and took over a vast portion of Mali including the important cities of Gao and Timbuktu.  In 2013, a coalition of regional and French-led NATO troops began fighting in support of the Malian army in response to international attention to the situation there.  A regional coalition also formed with the intention of restoring stability to Mali.  That coalition was led by Chad and included several Sahel countries of Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Mauritania.  The NATO coalition led by France mainly included European countries such as Germany and Sweden, however, the United States played a large supporting role in training regional forces and airdropping supplies for coalition troops.  Finally, in 2014, Malian and coalition forces were able to push Al Qaeda out of most of the towns in Northern Mali and the Malian government signed a peace agreement with the Tuareg rebels.



French soldiers boarding a US Air Force plane in Mali. (Wikimedia Commons)


While the full-scale war in Mali was resolved in 2014 and 2015, many Al Qaeda fighters stayed in the region.  Some AQIM affiliates went back to committing kidnappings and small-scale terrorist attacks while others began working with other extremist groups in the Sahel, including the budding militant group in Nigeria, Boko Haram.

In Nigeria, an Islamic extremist militant group known as Boko Haram existed since 2002, however, violence really escalated after 2009.  Boko Haram’s name roughly translates to “Western Education is Forbidden”.  Nigeria’s population is almost equally split between the Christian south and a Muslim northern region.  While the south of Nigeria has enjoyed economic growth since independence from the UK, the north has been slow to catch up and faces many problems common in the Sahel including drought, food shortages, illiteracy, and ethnic strife.  Boko Haram used discontent among Muslim Nigerians to sow divisions and encourage people to join their ranks and commit acts of terror and violence against what the group considers “western influences”.  Boko Haram also collaborated with other violent jihadist groups in the region and around the world.  Many of Boko Haram’s leaders fought with AQIM in Mali.  Boko Haram also has pledged allegiance to ISIS.  Boko Haram’s tactics include using children as suicide bombers and committing massacres of civilians.  The group gained international notoriety in 2014 after kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria. Since then, Boko Haram has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world in terms of the number of people the group has killed.  

Boko Haram’s influence spread into countries neighboring Nigeria including Niger, Chad, and Cameroon as the organization’s campaign of violence continued.  These countries, supported by the United States have since been able to force  Boko Haram and other extremist groups into hiding in remote areas of Northern Nigeria.  Insurgent groups with ties to Al Qaeda and Boko Haram, still operate in remote areas of several Sahel countries. 



Soldiers in Niger being trained by American special forces. (Wikimedia Commons)


While US involvement in the Sahel has helped several countries overcome terrorist threats, it has severe consequences for the region.  Many civilians in Sahel countries see the presence of American troops as a breach of their country’s’ sovereignty.  Many of the governments supported by the US are also dictatorships with bad human rights records.  Supporting these governments contributes to short-term stability but often overlooks problems of repression that come to a head when people who are discontented with autocratic regimes see insurgent groups as alternatives.  While Western countries have invested in some development in the Sahel, most of the American presence in the region is a military presence.  Improved security often doesn’t last in areas with almost no economic growth and widespread corruption.  Ethnic and religious divisions have also caused conflicts to spring up even after peace agreements have been reached.  Western involvement in the Sahel may help countries solve security issues but the underlying issues which cause many of the Sahel’s conflicts remain and will likely take decades to solve.   



The Kurds may Finally Realize their Dream of an Independent Kurdistan

 …but at what cost?

October 6, 2017, Rohin Ghosh


The flag of Iraqi Kurdistan and Kurdish movements all over the Middle East. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Kurds are the worlds largest ethnic group without their own country.  Northern Iraq, Northwestern Iran, Southeastern Turkey, and Northeastern Syria are home to large Kurdish populations.  The Kurds have their own language and cultural traditions which are similar, yet distinctly different from their Arab, Persian, and Turkish neighbors.  While most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, religion plays less of a role in Kurdish culture than in Arab or Iranian culture.  A sizeable minority of Kurds are members of other religious communities such as the Yazidi religion. Kurds have faced centuries of being oppressed by their larger neighbors.  At the end of the First World War, the Kurdish homeland, known to Kurds as Kurdistan was broken up between the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.  More recently, the Kurdish people have faced genocide in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and continuous political and cultural repression in Turkey.  Through all of this adversity, many Kurds still have a very strong sense of Kurdish nationalism and a dream that one day, all of Kurdistan, the Kurds’ historic homeland will be reunited.


The Kurdish homeland and Iraqi Kurdistan. (photo credit:

In Turkey, Kurds have a political party which advocates for autonomy for the Kurdish majority region of southeastern Turkey.  Since the breakout of the Syrian Civil War, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab tribes in northeastern Syria has carved out a semi-autonomous region.  There are also several Kurdish insurgent groups and militias, including the PKK in Turkey.  The Kurdish insurgent groups often clash with the governments of Iran and Turkey.  Most of the armed Kurdish groups are considered terrorist organizations by the countries they seek independence from.

In Iraq, the Kurds have had an autonomous region in the north of the country.  Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish autonomous region, has its own government which acts with little interference from the Iraqi government in Baghdad and its own military called the Peshmerga.  In collaboration with Iraqi army and tribal forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq have dealt lasting blows to ISIS operations, retaking important cities such and Sinjar and Kirkuk as well as taking back oilfields, thus cutting ISIS’ funding.  Much of the time, Kurdish forces have directly worked with the Iraqi Army.  However, with each victory, the Kurdish people of Iraq and all over the Middle East have been inching closer to independence, a goal Kurdish leaders have been dedicated to achieving.  The government of Iraqi Kurdistan is known as the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG. It is based in the city of Erbil and was lead by Massoud Barzani, the former President of Iraqi Kurdistan.  While the KRG controls most government affairs in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Erbil government does have to split oil revenues with the government in Baghdad and does not have full control over airports and border crossings.


Former Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Kurdish Regional Government President Barzani announced in June of 2017 that there would be a referendum to decide whether or not Iraqi Kurdistan would declare independence from the Iraqi government in Baghdad.  The referendum was originally supposed to be held earlier but was postponed until the major city of Mosul was taken back from ISIS by Iraqi and Kurdish forces.  Calls for an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq have been growing since over a century ago when the Middle East was divided by European powers with little regard for ethnic and sectarian differences.  The vote to decide the future of Iraqi Kurdistan finally took place on September 25.

In the run-up to the referendum, leaders in countries struggling with their own Kurdish separatist movements such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the attempt at independence by the KRG.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi repeatedly denounced the referendum as illegal and dangerous to regional stability and security.  Days before the referendum, the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled the vote unconstitutional.  The move toward independence by the Iraqi Kurds was discouraged by the US and most European countries on the grounds that the entire region could fall apart.  One country, however, did declare support for Kurdish independence.  Israel, a country seen as an enemy by most regional powers has long supported a Kurdish state.

When the vote finally took place, 93 percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of independence.  Voter turnout was fairly high but lower than expected at 72 percent.

Soon after the referendum, Turkey threatened to shut off the flow of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Turkish ports, thereby shutting off the main source of revenue for Iraqi Kurdistan.  Iran and Turkey have already placed economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan.  The Iraqi Government in Baghdad has closed airports in the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and is restricting travel to Iraqi Kurdistan.  Iraq, Iran, and Turkey conducted joint military exercises near the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has so far refused to negotiate directly with KRG leaders until the results of the referendum are declared null and void.  According to Rudaw, a pro-independence news agency based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, former KRG President, Massoud Barzani had stated that he was willing to negotiate with the Iraqi government in Baghdad and that the results of the referendum were not binding.  While the war of words between Baghdad and Erbil has escalated, Iraqi troops have retaken Hawija, a city adjacent to land disputed between Iraqi Kurdistan and the Baghdad government. Several Iraqi and Kurdish politicians have attempted to start negotiations over the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, however, so far, none have succeeded in resolving outstanding conflicts.  Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al Abadi has also refused to negotiate Several western countries including the US and France have offered to mediate between the KRG and the Iraqi government.

In October, Iraqi forces captured the disputed city of Kirkuk from Kurdish forces.  Armed clashes between Kurdish Peshmerga troops and the Iraqi army continued until a ceasefire restored some semblance of order.   Kirkuk is currently controlled by the Iraqi government and is a contentious topic during negotiations due to its vast oil reserves.

Massoud Barzani has resigned from his role as President of Iraqi Kurdistan, citing his age and desire to pass leadership on to a new generation.  His successors have taken a more conciliatory approach to negotiations with the Iraqi government, even stating a willingness to void the referendum results and return Iraqi Kurdistan to a similar status as it had before the move for independence.  In spite of this, however, progress in negotiations with the Iraqi government has been slow.  Both Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq will hold elections soon.  Iraqi Kurdistan will be voting for a new president and for members of Parliament in November.  Steering Iraqi Kurdistan toward independence without violence or unrest will guarantee former President Barzani’s party victory even though Barzani’s term limit ran out this November.  The KRG is currently being led by his son.   Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi is trying to navigate the complicated world of Iraqi sectarian politics.  He cannot afford to alienate the Kurds or Iraqi Sunni Arabs, many of whom support Kurdish independence, as this may risk further Iraqi civil war and unrest for years to come.  On the other hand, Abadi, himself a Shia like the slim majority of Iraqis will lose his 2018 election if he alienates hard-line Iraqi Shia Arabs such as the cleric Muqtada al Sadr.  Many of these hardliner Shias are supported by Iran and most oppose Kurdish independence.  Abadi cannot afford to appear too soft on the Kurdish move toward independence, however, he can’t afford stirring up ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq.

There are clear arguments to be made for the creation of an independent Kurdish nation.  The Kurds have never been truly represented by their Turkish, Iraqi, or Iranian governments.  In fact, quite the opposite has happened on several occasions.  The Kurdish people need to control their own destiny and their homeland being divided up into five parts is a recipe for only more strife and unrest.  On the other hand, a unilateral move towards independence may result in an already war-torn and volatile region descending into even more war which may last decades.  So far, the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq have avoided violence, the question is can they bring themselves to sit down, negotiate, and find a solution before it’s too late?

The RAISE Act, a Thinly Veiled Attempt to Make America Off Limits to Many Immigrants


Rohin Ghosh

August 7, 2017


Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA)

the White House along with President Trump, speaking in support

of the RAISE Act.  (Photo Credit: Migration Policy Institute)


President Trump has endorsed a bill introduced by far right senators, Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) called the “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act” or RAISE Act.  This bill doesn’t target undocumented immigrants, instead, it seeks to drastically reduce legal immigration.  The bill would cap the number of people who receive green cards at 500,000, a fifty percent decrease from the current number.  The RAISE Act also proposes a change to the process that new immigrants go through to get a green card.  The bill would start using a points based immigration system.  This means that applicants for a green card would be awarded points based on job skills, proficiency in English, and other factors.   Candidates with the most points would be able to achieve residency status in the US. The RAISE Act would also place a cap of 50,000 on the number of refugees admitted to the US.  Another drastic measure which the RAISE Act will enact if it is passed is the halting of admissions of new immigrants based on family relationships in the US for siblings and adult children of Americans.

The RAISE Act would spell disaster for several sectors of the economy and would break with long-standing American policy.  The bill is a way for extreme Republican senators to appease xenophobic members of their base.   The RAISE Act would do little to benefit the economy but would devastate sectors that rely heavily on immigrant labor.  In addition, the new restrictions of refugees would make legal status harder to achieve for people who depend on it for their lives.  The Trump Administration’s anti-refugee policies have already resulted in thousands of people leaving the United States to seek safety in neighboring Canada. Proponents of the RAISE Act’s “merit based” admission system cite that this procedure is used in Canada and Australia, however, they fail to realize that both of these countries allow in more immigrants as a percentage of their populations.  Historically, most of the immigrants that have made up the backbone of the US have been poorer, lower skilled people.  The American population is aging quickly and new immigrants are crucial to replenishing the workforce as the Baby Boomer generation ages and retires.  Immigrants also start businesses at a higher rate than native-born citizens, according to the Small Business Administration.  Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that almost half of all private sector jobs are in small businesses and 64% of all new private sector jobs are in small business.  Far from taking American jobs, immigrants are constantly creating new wealth and employment opportunities for American citizens.   The new immigration system proposed by the RAISE Act would also likely change the ethnic makeup of immigrants coming to the US.  Because wealthier, English-speaking immigrants with higher education would be preferred, more Europeans would be granted legal status.  Most European countries are wealthier and have higher English speaking populations than countries in other regions of the world.  The RAISE Act would, therefore, cause much more of the immigrant population to be White.

Perhaps most ironically, President Trump’s grandfather, Frederick Trump was a low skilled immigrant from Germany.  People who seek to immigrate to the US in a fashion similar to him as well as the ancestors of other supporters of immigration restrictions would have likely not been able to enter under restrictive policies like the RAISE Act.  Additionally, President Trump’s wife, Melania Trump would have been affected by the lower number of green cards issued under the RAISE Act if she were to try to gain entry into the United States under similar laws.

Luckily, enough Republicans have declared opposition to the RAISE Act for the bill to fail.  Republicans can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate and several Republican senators have already expressed concerns about the basic premise of reducing legal immigration.  However, opponents of this disastrous legislation cannot be complacent.  There are definitely strong elements of the Republican caucus who support xenophobic cuts to immigration.  A lack of Republican legislative achievements so far also increases the likelihood that some moderate Republican representatives and senators will try to get the RAISE Act passed.

For Democrats, the best way to fight the RAISE Act is to harness grassroots opposition in states with high immigrant populations that also have Republican senators.  Senators Jeff Flake from Arizona and Dean Heller from Nevada both come from states with high immigrant populations and are running for reelection in 2018.  Other moderate Republican senators who depend on immigrant votes include John McCain (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Large numbers of constituents contacting senators have helped convince senators to change their votes in the past.  Making sure that Senators from states with high immigrant populations know that a large portion of their constituents opposes xenophobic legislation like the RAISE Act can ultimately result in the defeat of this bill and other bills like it.   If you live in the following states, be sure to let your senator know that you do not approve of the RAISE Act:


Immigrants being sworn in as new American citizens in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo credit:




An Open Letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke about the Future Status of Carrizo Plain National Monument


July 9, 2017   

Dear Secretary Zinke,

I am a 14-year-old student from California and have enjoyed the outdoors for years.  Our nation’s unspoiled natural wonders have always had and will always have a special place in my heart.  

When your Department of the Interior decided to review 27 of our nation’s best national monuments, many people including myself were alarmed that any amount of the 11 million acres of wilderness could possibly wind up in the hands of energy or mining companies with no interest other than their profit.  

One national monument in particular sticks out to me as one that needs to stay fully protected in its entirety.  Carrizo Plain National Monument is located in San Luis Obispo County, California.  The Plain is the only basin fully enclosed by the Coast Ranges of California and is the last area of untouched California Valley Grassland in the world.  

The arid grasslands found in Carrizo Plain once stretched all across the southern half of California’s Central Valley and the southeastern portions of the Coast Ranges.  Carrizo Plain is home to several federally listed species including the endangered San Joaquin kit fox.  Carrizo Plain is also home to the last remaining herds of pronghorn antelope west of the Sierra Nevada.  Carrizo Plain also boasts one of the few wild herds of tule elk within the arid California Valley grasslands.  The herds of pronghorn and elk that inhabit Carrizo Plain are all that remains of the massive herds of these animals which once roamed the entire San Joaquin Valley.  The Carrizo Plain also hosts Soda Lake, California’s largest alkaline lake.  Soda lake provides excellent nesting and feeding habitat with little disturbance from people for several migratory bird species including American avocets, long-billed curlews, and impressive sandhill cranes.  In addition, in spring, the plain comes alive with wildflowers as the surrounding mountain ranges turn yellow and purple.  This transformation from arid desert to lush, blooming grassland that takes place in years with good winter range is a feature integral to the heritage of California.  Other places see this transformation occur, but nowhere are areas of wildflowers so vast.  Carrizo Plain also allows adventurous visitors to experience this amazing natural phenomenon in a true wilderness with few other people, something that is increasingly difficult due to the increasing popularity of wildflower sites such as Antelope Valley.  Carrizo Plain also contains historic sites such as Painted Rock, with its ancient Native American petroglyphs, and Traver’s Ranch, where visitors can see the remains of a pioneer homestead.  The monument also includes a portion of the San Andreas fault line, thus becoming a magnet for people seeking to learn about the region’s complex geology.  Carrizo Plain also offers opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a variety of activities including hunting, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.  To me, the best thing about Carrizo Plain is the break it provides from our fast-paced modern world.  It is a wonderful thing that there is still a place on this earth where one can hear no sounds but the wind rustling through the tumbleweeds and birds chirping and the only things to be seen for miles around are wildflower covered mountainsides.

When reviewing the status of Carrizo Plain, keep in mind that it is already surrounded by very large oilfields.  Also, consider that you have touted your listening to the opinions of the people living closest to the monuments.  Congressman Salud Carbajal represents California’s 24th district which includes the cities of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara as well the Carrizo Plain.  Recently, Carbajal and San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon joined a rally in support of protecting Carrizo Plain.  Friends of Carrizo Plain, an organization dedicated to protecting the national monument is backed by the city of Taft, a town whose economy is based mostly on oil.  If your Department of Interior truly listens to the people who live and work around Carrizo Plain, the only option is to keep the plain protected in its entirety.  40 years down the road when people who are currently my age will be in charge of the country when my generation looks back on your tenure, what would you want your time in office to be remembered for?  Would you rather be remembered as the Secretary of Interior who sold off Carrizo Plain and other treasures resulting in a slight increase in the income of the CEO of an oil company and erasing an integral piece of California’s natural heritage forever, or would you rather be remembered for being the one who protected Carrizo Plain for all future generations to enjoy in its full splendor?  Leaving the Carrizo Plain unprotected could result in the extinction of the last remaining pronghorn herds west of the Sierra Nevada, a herd that once populated all of the San Joaquin Valley.  Leaving Carrizo Plain unprotected could also result in one of the last areas of untouched desert grassland, a truly unique California ecosystem turning into one big oilfield.  Energy development in the Carrizo Plain would mean more profits for an already wealthy oil company but also the demise of the last remnant of an ecosystem found nowhere else.


Rohin Ghosh

To submit your own letter regarding this subject, go to this site on or before July 10.