California Desert

National Conservation Lands in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan: An Historic Opportunity

Wildflowers below a mountain range.

Wildflowers below the Kingston Range, Silurian Valley. Photo by John Dittli. Click to view panorama.

Whether you’re in Washington, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Maine or Florida, there’s a way for you to help protect millions of acres of National Conservation Lands in the coming months.

This is a time sensitive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect critical wildlife linkages, scenic vistas and connect existing conservation areas into a mosaic of protection blending conservation science and citizen advocacy.

Background

Pinnacle formations

Trona Pinnacles Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Click to view. Photo by Bob Wick.

In the California Desert, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is underway with a process to identify and designate additions to the National Conservation Lands. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is a multi-agency planning process led by the BLM that will determine what lands get conserved and what lands will be developed.

This effort encompasses the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA), a roughly 25-million acre area designated by Congress in 1976 in part for the protection of environmental, scenic, cultural, recreational and other resources.

Lake and mountains

Grimshaw Lake Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Click to view. Photo by Bob Wick.

The BLM is mandated by Congress through the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act to identify what lands in the CDCA can be added to the National Conservation Lands. The driving urgency of this process is to help meet California’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2020 by combining industrial–scale renewable energy with landscape-level mitigation for wildlife in the region.

What You Can Do

Palm trees

Willis Palms, north of Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley. Click to view. Photo by Bob Wick.

BLM has posted preliminary alternatives on the DRECP website and we anticipate a draft EIS out in late 2013. We’re grateful so many members of the Friends Grassroots Network signed onto their group letter to the BLM (pdf).

For groups outside of the Network, please send a letter to the BLM expressing support for the maximum conservation acreage to be added to the National Conservation Lands. You can see a sample letter: “Sample DRECP letter August 2013” (docx).

Read a handy fact sheet on the National Conservation Lands put out by The Wilderness Society: “National Conservation Lands and the DRECP” (pdf).

For more information on this opportunity, contact Sam@conservationlands.org.