Protecting Our Desert Lands
By Greg Suba, CNPS Conservation Program Director
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which was finalized in 2016, provided historic conservation gains for public lands in California and provided a precedent-setting blueprint for how to balance renewable energy development with conservation on our nation’s public lands. Local stakeholders, as well as thousands of citizens from throughout California and across the country, provided input over an 8-year process to shape the final plan.
But, on February 2, the Department of Interior (DOI) issued a notice to re-open the plan, potentially putting at risk more than 6 million acres of vital conservation lands, such as the Silurian Valley, Centennial Flats, and Chuckwalla Bench. These places are home to iconic plant and animal species, including the Joshua Tree, our wildflower superblooms, microphyll woodlands, the Mohave ground squirrel, desert tortoises, and bighorn sheep.
Within a two-week span, the DOI re-opened the DRECP, delayed the publication of a court-ordered environmental review of off-highway vehicle routes in the West Mojave, and cancelled a review of their own proposal to withdraw mining from up to 1.3 million acres of BLM-managed conservation lands. Taken together, these actions by DOI represent a concerted assault to rollback conservation across California’s desert lands.
This is Not about Renewable Energy
The Trump administration claims they are revisiting the DRECP to explore additional lands for renewable energy development. Yet, within the span of weeks, they’ve created a new tariff on imported solar panels that results in a 30 percent increase to their cost. This attempt to reopen the plan is not about renewable energy. It’s about the administration’s hostility to conservation and to the wishes of the residents of our region.
The California Native Plant Society is asking members to speak up for our desert lands and the unique native flora of these landscapes. We need you to let BLM and your Board of Supervisor members know that Californians want DOI to leave the DRECP alone, that reopening this plan will jeopardize the desert we cherish. It’s important that both the BLM and local counties know your wishes.
CNPS needs members in Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Inyo Counties to write their local members. Meanwhile, all members statewide should send letters and postcards to the BLM. Visit our DRECP page to find talking points and action items.
Note: This is a fast-moving issue, and much may have changed by the time this issue hits your mailbox.