02.19.15

Leaders across the California Desert Unified in Call for Strong Desert Planning

For immediate release
February 19, 2015

Contact: Sam Goldman, California Program Director
sam@conservationlands.org 415-669-4531

Rare Bipartisan Effort highlights need to prioritize conservation and minimize impact on neighborhoods in DRECP planning process

San Bernardino County, CA – A letter signed by a diverse cross section of 40 desert community leaders and sent last week to Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, calls for a successful Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) that prioritizes conservation, minimizes the impact on neighborhoods, and maintains recreation opportunities.

In a rare showing of unity in the California desert, a bipartisan group of elected officials, business and conservation leaders are highlighting the need to promote and protect areas in the desert most suited for conservation and off limits from development.

Background on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP)

The DRECP will decide how to conserve the California desert, while also allowing for the development of renewable energy projects. It is focused on the desert lands of seven California counties – Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego. As part of this process, U.S. Bureau of Land Management will take public input and identify which lands should be protected as part of the National Conservation Lands.

The letter comes at a time when the DRECP process has been under fire in recent weeks. This letter injects a note of hope to the process, supporting DRECP success and encouraging DRECP planners take into account local knowledge and input.

The Call for Conservation

While the DRECP has a myriad of components, the letter specifically calls on the obligation from Congress that the Bureau of Land Management identify areas that should be part of the National Conservation Lands, BLM’s network of protected areas. The National Conservation Lands are a collection of spectacular landscapes, rivers and trails that offer visitors the opportunity to experience the beauty, history and adventure of the American West.

Thomas Fjallstam President of the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce, said, “Ecotourism is an important part of our local economy. People from all over the world visit our county’s National Parks, BLM’s National Conservation Lands and recreation areas. A strong DRECP will protect those interests which bring much needed dollars to our local communities. This is why chambers from the desert, mountains and the valley have signed onto this letter to the Secretary.”

The Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association, the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce, the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce, and the Hispanic Inland Empire Chamber of Commerce all were signatories to the letter.

“The California desert is a place of unsurpassed natural beauty, remarkably adapted species, and a deep and living cultural and spiritual history.” Said David Lamfrom, Associate Director – California Desert, National Parks Conservation Association. “Because of these values, which we are rapidly losing in other places, we must take advantage now of the chance to protect our most precious places as National Conservation Lands. We understand that renowned locations like the Silurian Valley, Panamint Valley, Chuckwalla Bench, and so many other worthy locations do not have adequate protections and in some cases are actively threatened by poorly sited renewable energy projects. The time is upon us to stand up for the most spectacular places in our country’s wildest corner.”

Congress gave the BLM the authority to determine which areas in the California Desert should be part of the National Conservation Lands when the network of lands was established by law in 2009. This process is taking place through the DRECP, with community organizations, business leaders, and elected officials weighing in on the plan. These lands will be free from development. Legal and open routes for off-highway vehicle travel will remain open, just as they are today.

“Without a successful DRECP, the desert would be negatively impacted in ways that could be irreversible,” said Sam Goldman, California Program Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “There are too many important historic, cultural, and sensitive areas not to plan for development with the communities that know the lands.”

“It is clear that this group of community leaders agrees that we are better off with a strong plan that promotes conservation,” continued Goldman. “I am grateful to the DRECP planners who encouraged community engagement and look forward to the next step in the process.”

Local Voices in the DRECP

The Conservation Lands Foundation has been working with local community groups who are experts on desert conservation to determine which areas should be set aside, and numerous organizations and citizens have been submitting public comments.

Attorney and San Bernardino County resident Chris Carrillo commented, “This letter is a telling example of an unprecedented number of local leaders coming together to protect San Bernardino County’s legacy. Elected, business and civic leaders want a strong, locally vetted DRECP that safeguards our residential communities from industrial scale development and promotes our coveted conservation and recreation areas.”

A copy of the letter may be viewed here: Letter to Secretary Jewell.

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About the Conservation Lands Foundation
The mission of the Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF) is to protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands so they will endure from generation to generation. The National Conservation Lands are protected public lands and waterways managed by the Bureau of Land Management that have joined the ranks of our national parks and wildlife refuges as special places that preserve our natural, historical and scientific treasures. To learn more, visit
www.conservationlands.org.

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