California

Conservation: California Desert

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Conservation: California Desert
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Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society

Protecting the California desert

The California desert is one of the largest primarily intact landscapes left in North America. It consists mostly of public lands and has a substantial base of protected areas that are managed by agencies like the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. 

Renowned as a tourist destination, the California desert is a world-class area for hiking, rock climbing, stargazing and other recreation that generates substantial revenues for the local economy. 

Its craggy mountain ranges, shifting sand dunes and wildflower-filled valleys also contain important Native American cultural sites and historical resources like the Old Spanish Trail and Route 66. 

For decades we have successfully advanced conservation in this region. However, there is much work to be done to defend our prior gains and to further protect and connect this fragile landscape.

Why this place matters

The 25 million acres of the California desert may seem vast and empty, but they harbor an amazing array of biological diversity, including many animal and plant species.

Home to 1,800 plant species,
like the Joshua tree.
Supports 600 wildlife species,
like desert bighorn sheep.
Outstanding recreation
The desert holds world-class recreation from rock climbing to touring sites along old Route 66.

The threat

Many areas of the desert are threatened by poor management plans that fail to properly protect native plants and wildlife, regulate irresponsible use of motorized vehicles, or preserve cultural and historic sites. There are also concerns about possible rollbacks of existing wildland conservation designations.

We want more balanced and responsible management, and oppose Bureau of Land Management planning that prioritizes off-road vehicles over other uses of sensitive desert lands. We are also challenging efforts to strip national monument and conservation land designations, as well as proposals to export the region’s limited groundwater and open sensitive lands to new mining. 

We are defending the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) which allocates substantial areas for conservation while guiding renewable energy projects to the least damaging sites. This plan was achieved following an 8-year collaborative process but now risks being rolled back by the Department of the Interior.
 

What we're doing

  1. Upholding protections

    We are challenging all attempts to roll back protections for our desert national monuments.

  2. Defending the desert

    We are working to defend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

  3. Taking a stand against mining

    Opposing efforts to open the desert to new mining and groundwater exports.

  4. Reducing damage to wildlands

    We’re working to reduce the impact of off-road vehicles.

What you can do
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