The over 19,000-acre Ash Hill area is a sprawling West Mojave Desert landscape of rugged mountains and sweeping bajadas, interspersed with canyons and braided washes. Elevations range from 1,300 feet to 2,600 feet. The mountains are a mosaic of reds, browns, grays, and yellows, and the area serves as a scenic backdrop to the most remote and undeveloped portion of Historic Route 66 in California. The area provides important habitat for sensitive wildlife species such as burrowing owl, desert bighorn sheep, and desert tortoise, and for a number of rare desert plants. It also provides outstanding opportunities for solitude and desert recreation such as hiking, horseback riding, camping, star gazing, photography, and other quiet and low-impact activities.
Recognizing the area’s distinct qualities, the BLM’s proposal under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will permanently protect almost the entire area as part of the National Landscape Conservation System. BLM is proposing to disturb this largely unspoiled desert oasis by designating 5.4 miles of motor vehicle routes that would jeopardize the area’s unique natural and cultural features, and undercut its designation as a National Conservation Area.
Because proposed routes were identified using inaccurate aerial photography, we ground-truthed them and determined that most show no signs of recent use and some are completely impassible. Our fieldwork also confirmed that authorizing motor vehicle use on these routes could have lasting consequences, including widespread erosion, unauthorized route proliferation, wildlife habitat fragmentation, damage to cultural sites, illegal dumping, and degradation of the area’s documented wilderness characteristics and other ecological values.
• Ash Hill area spans over 19,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands.
• WEMO Plan proposes 5.4 miles of motorized vehicle routes in the area.
• Ash Hill provides rich wildlife habitat, irreplaceable archaeological resources, important ecological connectivity, and outstanding non-motorized desert recreation opportunities.
• The area will be permanently protected as a National Conservation Land area under the BLM’s DRECP proposals.
Findings from the Field:
• A desert tortoise shell, horned lizard, and fishhook cactus along an otherwise impassible and eroded proposed route.
• No signs of recent use along most of the proposed routes, many of which are indistinguishable from the surrounding desert.
• The probable remnants of historic World War II tank tracks, a lithic fragment, and other archaeological artifacts that would be threatened by motorized vehicle use of the proposed routes.
• Loose soil and erosion that would be exacerbated by opening new routes in the area.
• A rich and diverse riparian wash that becomes indistinguishable from a proposed route.
• A campfire ring and other incidences of trash and vandalism alongside proposed