A Critical Opportunity

In order to balance conservation priorities with other uses in the vast California Desert, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) designated some areas for development, and some for conservation and recreation now known as the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

As their name suggests, these lands are intended to be managed for conservation.  To make sure that happens, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has multiple tools it can put to work, such as establishing legal definitions for these lands – one of the first steps in management planning – developing implementation plan elements, ensuring appropriate route and travel management, undertaking proper inventory work, and prohibiting new corporate mining.

On December 27, 2016, BLM had begun a public process, known as mineral withdrawal, to protect the California Desert National Conservation Lands from new corporate mining, while preserving recreational collecting and existing valid rights.  Unfortunately, the Trump Administration canceled this process before the public could weigh in.

That is why we must urge BLM to uphold its commitment to conserving these places, and use the other tools in its toolbox to ensure the most robust possible protections for our treasured Desert Lands.

What You Can Do

TAKE URGENT ACTION to help support an area under imminent threat.

Please also help us urge BLM to fully protect the incredible cultural and ecological resources in the California Desert National Conservation Lands by signing the petition below.

SEE THE PETITION TEXT

TO: United States Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has achieved a great milestone in establishing the California Desert National Conservation Lands through the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan (DRECP).  The preservation of these lands for future generations is a vital component of this innovative plan to ensure balanced conservation and renewable energy development, crafted with the engagement of federal, state, local and industry stakeholders.  With this, BLM stands to lead the way in forward-thinking holistic management of our public lands.

I urge you to continue to demonstrate your commitment, and fulfill your mandated responsibility, to effectively managing and caring for these special places by ensuring that they are permanently protected from threats to their scenic, ecological, and cultural values.  To that end, BLM should establish legal definitions for the California Desert National Conservation Lands, and develop and implement appropriate step-down plan elements and travel management so that the Lands’ conservation values are safeguarded and the public is able to reasonably identify, access, and appreciate these places.  I also strongly encourage BLM to uphold the standards of protection for all National Conservation Lands and pursue opportunities to reduce corporate mining on these lands, which results in detrimental, landscape-level impacts and harms public access to these natural areas.

In order to ensure these new National Conservation Lands live up to their name and remain as natural, open, and undeveloped as possible for future generations, I support robust conservation management and permanent protection of the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Thank you for your leadership in protecting these irreplaceable pieces of the California desert.

Sign the Petition

Take Further Action

Explore, volunteer, and join the conversation with one of our local partners.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED

Conglomerate Mesa, one of the outstanding areas of the California Desert National Conservation Lands, is under immediate threat from corporate mining interests seeking permission to do test drilling in previously unsuccessful drill sites. If successful, the company would establish an open pit cyanid heap leach mine that would pollute scarce local water systems, and permanently damage the area’s wild, natural character, it’s landscape, and habitat. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the California Desert National Conservation Lands?

The California Desert National Conservation Lands are a collection of ecologically rich public lands in the California Desert that have been designated for conservation through the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). They consist of individual areas of diverse size and special natural characteristics scattered throughout California’s southeastern corner, including rocky desert peaks, sloping bajadas, and lush riparian corridors. The California Desert National Conservation Lands are part of the National Conservation Lands, America’s newest collection of protected public lands and waterways managed for long-term conservation by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

BLM identified these new National Conservation Lands by using ecological, cultural, and scientific data, and taking into consideration development pressures, landscape intactness, scenic quality, landscape linkages, and area size. BLM grouped lands into ten sub-regions, including the Coachella Valley, Lake Cahuilla, the Western Desert and Eastern Slope, and the Mojave and Silurian Valley.

What are the National Conservation Lands?

Established in 2000 and signed into law in 2009, the National Conservation Lands are the nation’s newest collection of protected public lands managed by the BLM, on par with the National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges managed by the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively.

The National Conservation Lands consist of nationally significant landscapes with outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific value across 32 million acres of lands, trails, and rivers designated for protection by Congress or the President. The 873 units of National Conservation Lands are the crown jewels of the BLM, representing the beauty, history, and spirit of the American West.

How were the California Desert National Conservation Lands established?

The California Desert is so unique among BLM managed lands that in 1976 Congress recognized this by creating the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) and prioritizing management of those lands for conservation and recreation. Then, in 2009 Congress mandated that BLM’s National Conservation Lands include all areas that BLM manages primarily for conservation, specifically including all lands managed for conservation within the CDCA.

This led BLM to formally define the lands that should be permanently protected through an administrative tool called a Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) specific to the California Desert known as the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). This process formally established the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Why were the California Desert National Conservation Lands established?

The California Desert National Conservation Lands were established in order to balance conservation priorities with other uses of the vast California Desert. Our public lands in the California Desert are managed for multiple uses by the BLM, and in recent years interest has increased for both protecting the desert’s sensitive landscapes and developing parts of the desert for renewable energy.

Previously, renewable energy development projects in the California desert underwent planning and permitting on an individual, case-by-case basis. As interest in these projects has increased dramatically, new management tools and guidelines became necessary in order to streamline and expedite the planning and permitting process for renewable energy in some places while protecting other places through conservation. The DRECP does this by designating conservation areas and development areas throughout the desert. As a result, the DRECP designates the California Desert as Conservation Lands—for permanent protection so the public can continue to enjoy these natural spaces.

What has changed now that these lands are protected?

Many of these Lands were already managed to protect their natural condition before becoming the California Desert National Conservation Lands, but this designation ensures that management is now the priority for these Lands. The California Desert National Conservation Lands are permanently protected so that they will continue to be as they are today: open, undeveloped, and wild.

These Lands will be protected while also allowing many other uses to continue where appropriate, such as livestock grazing and certain recreational uses. Valid existing rights will also be permitted.

Private property and local jurisdictions are unaffected because protections under the California Desert National Conservation Lands designation only apply to federally managed public lands

Will these Lands be accessible to the public?

Yes! The California Desert National Conservation Lands are pubic lands and will remain open to the public for recreational enjoyment like hiking, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more.

Does the Lands’ protected status impact private property or existing uses?

No. The designation applies only to public lands managed by the Federal government, not private lands. Access to private land will be preserved, and existing recreational uses will be preserved.

Did local communities have input in the establishment of the California Desert National Conservation Lands

Yes. Local governments, renewable energy developers, environmental organizations, utilities, tribes, community members, and many other members of the public participated in the development of the DRECP, which established the California Desert National Conservation Lands, and provided input on the Lands.

BLM conducted a standard public review and comment process during which it:

  • Distributed 18,000 copies of the DRECP draft alternatives;
  • Held approximately 70 meetings and hearings; and
  • Received 9,000 written responses and more than 40,000 individual comments.

All this public input was used in BLM’s decision-making process.

How will the designation of the California Desert National Conservation Lands benefit their surrounding communities?

The designation of the California Desert National Conservation Lands benefits the communities surrounding the Lands in a number of meaningful ways, such as:

  • Economic growth: The designation helps build strong, diverse local economies by protecting important open space that is vital to the expanding tourism and recreation industries.
  • Better management and partnerships: The designation strengthens BLM’s partnerships with communities and provides seamless management with adjacent state parks and open spaces managed by other entities. It also improves development of collaborative projects like trail creation and maintenance, and visitor services.
  • Greater resources: As part of the National Conservation Lands, the California Desert National Conservation Lands will BLM will receive more funds through the national budget and will be eligible to compete for federal Land and Water Conservation Act funding. BLM will have greater ability to share administrative, management, and financial resources to implement plans and provide attention to critical needs.

Is the protection of these Lands permanent?

Yes! The California Desert National Conservation Lands will be permanently protected just as they are today—open and natural and wild—for the enjoyment of future generations.

What else does the DRECP do?

The DRECP balances conservation with development across the whole California Desert landscape. In addition to designating the California Desert National Conservation Lands, the DRECP also established other non-conservation lands such as Development Focus Areas and Recreation Designations.

Development Focus Areas: These are desert lands that are designated for solar, wind, and geothermal development through streamlined permitting processes.

Recreation Designations: These consist of Special Recreation Management Areas and Extensive Recreation Management Areas that recognize a range of recreational activities in the desert. Lands within these designations would be closed to renewable energy development but open to public recreation.