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Environmentalist Elden Hughes Dies At 80

Longtime Sierra Club leader helped to pass California Desert Protection Act

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Elden Hughes, an environmental advocate who helped to protect much of California’s desert wilderness has died. He was 80. Hughes was a longtime Sierra Club leader who in the early 1990s led an effort to support California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) California Desert Protection Act of 1994, according to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times. In 2003, Hughes worked with the Wildlands Conservancy to acquire more than 620,000 acres of former railroad land that stretched from the Salton Sea to the Colorado River that was then turned over to the public for preservation.

A tortoise lover, Hughes was known as a charmer, according to the article. He was known to bring baby California desert tortoises to those whom he met with in Congress, with the tortoises serving as a calling card for Hughes, disarming the congressional staff and their boss in the process. Last year, Hughes helped to convince the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to abandon a plan to build an 85 mile long “green” power transmission line through a desert wilderness preserve and mountains, the Times article stated. He was also among 12 environmentalists who joined President Clinton when he signed the California Desert Protection Act, an act that created a new national park in the Mojave Desert and gave rise to the Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks. Hughes is survived by his wife and three sons.