California - Desert Conservation and Recreation Act

State: California
Region: Southern California

In February 2016, President Obama designated the Sand to Snow, Castle Mountains and Mojave Trails National Monuments after hearing from thousands of supporters urging him to preserve these important lands. The designations come after nearly a decade of work by Senator Dianne Feinstein and countless others to ensure protections for these areas for recreation and important wildlife values.

The 1994 California Desert Protection Act was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 31, 1994. At the time, it was the largest land conservation designation in the continental United States, protecting more than 9.6 million acres of desert and establishing the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the Mojave Natural Preserve.

The California desert is a place of unrivaled natural beauty, rich history, impressive recreational opportunities and remarkable biodiversity, but this unique region is still threatened by urban development in southern California and Las Vegas, over-allocated water resources and the development of industrial projects, especially renewable energy, in ecologically sensitive areas.

Building on this legacy, in 2011 Senator Feinstein re-introduced the California Desert Protection Act to chart a course for regional planning that will protect the heart of the California desert, wildlife corridors, habitat for rare and endangered species, recreational opportunities and unique archaeological resources. the latest proposal, introduced in February 2015, is called the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act. The draft bill balances conservation with other priorities such as recreation and energy development, and will create the following:

  • 250,000 acres of wilderness in five new BLM wilderness areas
  • 77 miles of Wild and Scenic River segments along Deep Creek, Amargosa River, Surprise Creek and the Whitewater River

  • 18,840 acre Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in Inyo

  • County, protecting the iconic western landscape at the foothills of Mount

  • Whitney.

  • Mojave National Preserve additions- 29,000 acres

  • Death Valley National Park additions- almost 40,000 acres

  • Joshua Tree National Park additions - 4,500 acres

  • A provision that requires the Department of the Interior to exchange 370,000 acres of federal land for state land, allowing California to use these areas for commercial purposes including clean energy.

Related: In the second quarter of 2015, BLM announced that it will move forward on a controversial solar energy project, Soda Mountain Solar, in the heart of the Californian desert, the Silurian Valley, less than a quarter mile from the Mojave National Preserve. Although the project footprint was scaled back from 2,557 acres to 1,923 acres, a commercial-scale solar project of this size would endanger sensitive habitat for desert plants and animals, including one of the most important corridors connecting desert bighorn sheep habitat in the California desert, and endangered desert tortoise habitat.


Wild Lands