Renewable Energy in the Desert

CalWild cares deeply about preserving the wild places and rivers in California’s deserts. We also recognize the need to address climate change. The goals of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) are to ensure that new renewable energy projects are carefully sited and desert wild places are protected. CalWild needs your help in making sure that the DRECP prohibits development and new mining claims in conservation areas.

California’s Deserts

California’s deserts cover over a quarter of the Golden State and are home to more than 800 species of wildlife and 5,800 plant species.

Most of the land in the California deserts is owned by the American people and overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Energy companies, lured by tax incentives and the many sunny, wide-open places in our deserts, have flocked to California to build wind, solar, and geothermal plants on BLM land. While we need renewable energy, we have to site it appropriately or we will cause a host of serious problems, including the destruction of plants and wildlife, scenic vistas, Native American cultural sites, and areas important for public recreation.

What is the DRECP?

The DRECP is an ambitious, dual-pronged effort to (1) identify suitable places for renewable energy development in California’s deserts; and (2) identify wild places that should be protected through inclusion in the National Conservation Lands (NCL). It has the potential for being a truly historic piece of conservation for California’s deserts.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 established the National Conservations Lands – lands with significant scientific, ecological, and cultural values, and defined options for protection as:

  • a national monument;
  • a national conservation area;
  • a wilderness study area;
  • a national scenic trail or national historic trail designated as a component of the National Trails System;
  • a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System;
  • a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System; or
  • public land within the California Desert Conservation Area administered by the Bureau of Land Management for conservation purposes.
Why do we need the DRECP?

Before the DRECP, energy projects were considered on a case-by-case basis, which often resulted in poorly-cited projects and uncertainty for both conservationists and developers.

What’s the status of the DRECP?

The BLM released its Proposed Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the DRECP in November 2015. As a result of the efforts of CalWild, other conservationists, and people like you, the BLM proposed to designate about 3.9 million acres of National Conservation Lands in our deserts, up from the proposed 3.1 million acres in the draft DRECP, and found 1.2 million acres as wilderness-eligible (which included many of the areas CalWild inventoried and brought to BLM’s attention).

BLM also made other significant improvements to the Plan. BLM made it clear that lands designated for conservation in the DRECP are permanent additions to the National Conservation Lands. Also, certain special landscapes, such as the majestic Silurian Valley, are no longer threatened by development pressure because BLM has designated them to be part of the National Conservation Lands. And while there are improvements still to be made, the agency did strengthen language in the proposed Plan related to potential future mining claims in protected areas.

What is CalWild Doing?

In December 2015, we submitted a formal protest to the Proposed Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement.

We continue to push the BLM for a few more additions to the National Conservation Lands:

  • Lower Centennial Flat
  • Deep Springs Valley (including Deep Springs Lake)
  • Bristol Valley
  • The flats to the south of Big Maria Mountains Wilderness

We also continue to urge BLM to commit to a mineral withdrawal process for priority conservation areas immediately after the DRECP Record of Decision. This withdrawal process will take two years to complete and will involve a fully transparent and publicly inclusive process. The first step of this process is a segregation that temporarily protects lands being considered for the withdrawal while that underlying process is completed. Without a firm and timely commitment for withdrawing all of these protected areas, there are concerns that some of these areas could be adversely impacted by new mining operations in the interim. Stated simply, protected lands need to be protected. Industrial development, such as mining, on these lands would undermine the purpose of the DRECP and the progress made in this innovative blueprint for the future of the California desert.

What can you do?

Contact the BLM to let them know that you would like the additional areas listed above to be included in National Conservation Lands and to let them know that you want them to commit to a mineral withdrawal process for priority conservation areas immediately after the DRECP Record of Decision.

We are nearing the end of this seven-year process to set aside special lands in the California Desert for conservation and identify appropriate lands for potential renewable energy development. In early 2016, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be making final decisions about the DRECP prior to publishing its Record of Decision, expected as soon as June or July 2016. Now is the best and last time to weigh in on this important plan for California and the nation.

If you treasure the deserts, please join with us in urging the BLM to make the DRECP as beneficial as possible for the lands that we love! Click below for more information on some of these specific areas (coming soon).

Ash Hill
Bighorn Mountains
Big Maria Mountains and surrounding flats
Bristol Lake
Cadiz Valley-Iron Mountains
California Valley
Chemehuevi Valley North
Chemehuevi Valley South
Chuckwalla Mountains
Little Chuckwalla Mountains

Coso Range
Danby Lake
Dublin Hills
Hollow Hills
Knight Canyon
Lower Centennial Flat
Malpais Mesa
Middle Knob
Mule Mountains
Newberry Mountains
Nopah Range

Orocopia Mountains
Osborne Canyon
Palen Lake
Pinto Mountains
Red Mountain
Resting Spring Range
Riverside Mountains
Rodman Mountains
Rose Valley/McCloud Flat

Sacramento Mountains
Ship Mountains
Slate Range
Snow Canyon
Sperry Hills/Kingston Range
Stepladder Mountains
Turtle Mountains
Valley Mountain
Whipple Mountains
Wildrose Wash