Current Conservation Issues
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP)
Federal and state agencies responsible for managing land and resources in California are preparing a landscape-level conservation plan in order to expedite the siting and development of renewable energy facilities across California's desert ecoregion. The purpose of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, is to protect desert wildlife and wild lands while expediting renewable energy production. Implicit to the success of the DRECP is the preservation of the ecological needs of desert plant species and vegetation communities.
The conservation of botanical resources is often under-considered during project planning due to the abundant nature of plant material. However the diversity of plant life and the proper functionality of their ecological processes are more important attributes for assessing the long-term viability of plant populations than plant abundance. Plants species and plant communities form the foundation for wildlife habitats while providing a sense of beauty to the landscape. Equally important, plants have an inherent value in and of themselves that we must respect through their conservation. Ensuring that botanical information is fully considered and integrated into the desert conservation planning process is critical to the preservation of rare desert plant species and natural vegetation communities, as well as the ecological and biological systems that rely on them.
On May 2, 2011, CNPS released a draft of plant priority lists to several plant experts for additional information and corrections. Additional plant information is being researched and will be added to the list in Fall 2011.
On May 17, 2011, CNPS attended the latest DRECP Stakeholders meeting. The meeting notes and documents can be found here: http://www.drecp.org/meetings/index.html.
On May 27, 2011, CNPS added in the plant expert comments and returned its draft plant priority lists to the REAT Agencies for initial review.
CNPS continues to advocate for desert plant mapping and surveying. These findings will be added in further drafts of the priority plant lists and covered species lists.
CNPS and the DRECP Process:
To assist the DRECP process, CNPS will gather and prioritize information critical to the conservation of intact natural vegetation communities and rare plant populations within the desert planning area, and will work to ensure this information is incorporated into the DRECP process. This is information that would otherwise be under-considered, overlooked, or ignored due to the lack of agency staff available to fully consider plant issues given the unprecedented pace and scale of the DRECP process.
There is also a tendency to respond toward the more broadly defined missions of other wildlife and wild lands conservation organizations, yet it is the plants themselves that that provide the underlying habitat values necessary to support desert wildlife. We will gather, analyze, and prioritize botanical information critical to the preservation of intact natural vegetation communities and rare plant populations, provide this information to land-use agencies, conservation organizations, and renewable energy developers, and advocate to DRECP stakeholders for the adoption of the most appropriate plant conservation measures based on our findings.
The DRECP will be a joint Natural Communities Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) covering approximately 23 million acres across the California desert region. The expedited process timeline forecasts a draft plan by December 2012, and a fully approved plan by December 2013. Once completed, the plan will be in effect for 30 years. The plan will result in incidental take permits for Federally and State listed animal species, and State listed plant taxa covered under the plan, and as much conservation for the remaining desert biota as conservation groups can negotiate into the plan by 2013. The DRECP will describe allowable activities permitted by the plan, and identify mitigation measures for these activities.
CNPS has identified 324 List 1B and List 2 taxa with California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) occurrences within the planning area, 171 of which occur in the footprints of solar/wind project applications, energy "study areas," and under transmission line easements. The CNPS State office is currently working on developing a prioritized list of taxa to have addressed within the DRECP.
The DRECP Stakeholder Group will meet every 2nd Wednesday of the month for the duration of the planning process until further notice. Meetings will switch between Sacramento and Riverside/Victorville. Environmental representatives on the Stakeholder Group currently include the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Defenders of Wildlife, and the Wildlands Conservancy.
An independent science panel’s Science Recommendation report will be released in mid-August, 2010. CNPS has provided input regarding botanical resources to be included in this report.