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To most Southern Californians, the Carrizo Plain National Monument is best known for its stunning wildflower blooms and bone-white Soda Lake.

But to environmentalists, the plain is a well-preserved window into California’s past — a time before the sprawling grasslands of the Central Valley were overtaken by agriculture and development.

Now, those environmentalists are voicing outrage over a May 21 decision by the federal Bureau of Land Management to allow an oil well and pipeline project within the monument.

At a moment when oil prices are still reeling from a sharp decline, conservationists say the decision to open a new well is as puzzling as it is galling.

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