California Desert Conservation

Joshua Tree. Credit NPS / Allison Taggart-Barone

More than meets the eye

California’s deserts are home to the iconic Joshua tree, jaw-dropping superblooms, and important habitat like microphyll woodlands. Yet a handful of commercial interests want to position the desert as a barren wasteland, one we can afford to sacrifice to private industry.

Today, a number of factors threaten California’s desert lands, including:

  • utility scale solar and wind projects,
  • climate change,
  • illegal off-highway vehicle recreation,
  • mining,
  • and ongoing attempts to drain precious groundwater and divert it to Los Angeles.

Saving what matters

Since 2016, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) has been a success story in collaborative regional planning, an example of what can be accomplished when conservationists, scientists, government, and industry work together.  CNPS played an active role in the development of the DRECP and works with partners to protect hard-won conservation gains established in the plan. And while we’re at it, we’re working to secure additional protections for microphyll woodlands and other important areas of concern. Explore our desert content below to learn more.

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California’s Microphyll Woodlands

Microphyll woodlands are an important focus of CNPS desert conservation. Learn why in this one-minute video. Please share!

Joshua Trees in Transition

Climate change puts Joshua trees at risk.

Castle Mountains. Credit Duncan Bell.
Castle Mountains. Photo by Duncan Bell.


Here’s what you need to know about the groundbreaking desert plan and what you can do to help keep it in tact.

Illegal hillclimb tracks
Illegal hillclimb tracks

OHV reform

Damage from illegal off-highway vehicle use is outpacing California’s ability to regulate it and repair fragile ecosystems, but a CNPS-supported bill is helping.

Poppies. Credit Liv O'Keeffe
Poppies. Credit Liv O’Keeffe

Saving the superbloom

Places like Antelope Valley are scenes of epic wildflower displays. See how the CNPS Important Plant Area Initiative is working to protect them.

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When you save plants, you save places.