As the owner and operator of the original and largest outdoor adventure and eco-tour company in the California desert, I understand and value the many discoveries that await every guest who boards one of our Desert Adventure Red Jeeps.
The excited and awe-struck reaction from my tour guests always brings me back to the main reason I bought this 30-year-old business eight years ago: to celebrate and share the beauty and majesty of these untouched landscapes. Giving guests a rare look at these magical geological formations, animals and plants that only survive in our California deserts, not to mention the rich historical remnants of our past, is my number one goal on every tour. For this reason, I am concerned that some of these natural treasures may be in danger.
In February, the Trump administration ordered a review of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The DRECP is designed to balance the conservation of public lands with development of renewable energy in the environmentally sensitive deserts of California.
The DRECP strikes an appropriate balance between land conservation and developing renewable energy sources, such as windmills and solar farms. Despite this, the Trump administration claims even more energy development is needed in the desert. By ordering a review of the DRECP, President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are effectively opening the land for commercial activities that could limit public access and hurt the vital tourism economy that is the lifeblood of many desert communities, including our own.
Re-evaluating the already-approved DRECP is a waste of taxpayer dollars and does a disservice to all stakeholders, including industry. The existing plan benefits renewable energy companies by providing access to existing data compiled through the DRECP rather than initiating expensive and lengthy new environmental studies, which helps streamline permit applications in specific, set-aside areas. In fact, experts confirm that the 400,000 acres authorized for development by the DRECP are beyond sufficient to generate enough energy for California to reach its mandate of running on 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
The millions of acres under the DRECP’s protection span seven counties and create wildlife corridors linking three national parks, five national forests, three national monuments and 70 BLM wilderness areas. Jeopardizing the DRECP’s implementation risks the public’s access to millions of acres of lands in California, including desert wilderness areas. If these irreplaceable public lands are open for development, the iconic landscapes of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts will be marred, Native American heritage sites will be destroyed, recreation areas will become inaccessible and sensitive species will be at higher risk to endangerment and extinction through habitat destruction.
I am concerned that Secretary Zinke may potentially put our California desert lands in danger. Please join me in preventing this from happening by reaching out to our local representatives and urging them to keep the present DRECP plan intact.
Together, we can protect our precious desert lands.
Bob Schneider is the owner of Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours and Events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find the original article online at DesertSun.com.