The Desert

The Desert

California’s Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin deserts are among the most pristine and unique lands in the world. From painted mountains to hidden springs, from world-famous wildflowers to majestic herds of desert bighorn sheep, Americans have long been drawn to the stark beauty of California’s desert.

Preserving Our Desert’s Wild Places and Waters

Tourism and recreation are an essential part of the desert region’s economy. The desert is also a bridge to our Native American, pioneering, and homesteading roots. To this day, hikers can still follow pristine mountain streams, migrating wildlife, and historic trails for hundreds of miles, and experience a place where little has changed over thousands of years.

Paradoxically, the fragile desert environment is teeming with wildlife and plant life. This unique place needs protection from encroaching urbanization, poorly-sited renewable energy projects and other human intrusions.

The public has an historic opportunity to work with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and the local congressional delegation to add additional protections to publicly-owned land so that they provide wildlife corridors, protect important watersheds and waterways, and preserve our desert heritage for generations to come.

Golden Valley additions. Photo by Sam Roberts

Golden Valley additions. Photo by Sam Roberts

Administrative Action Designating Three National Monuments

Given Congress’ track record of inaction, Senator Dianne Feinstein and local community leaders and advocates pursued a dual track approach of both advocating for legislation and urging President Obama to take action to designate Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments in order to permanently protect their unique features and uses for current and future generations.  Last year, Senator Feinstein called on President Obama to designate the national monuments, building on years of effort to pass legislation to protect these places. On February 12, 2016, President Obama officially designated those public lands. In doing so, the President followed in the footsteps of nearly every president since 1906 – eight Republicans and eight Democrats – who have used the Antiquities Act more than 140 times to protect special places, including Joshua Tree and Death Valley.  National Monument status means that these lands will be permanently protected from renewable energy development and other harmful development while maintaining public access for recreation activities such as hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, star-gazing, and more.

Follow the links below to find out more about each of these important areas from the Campaign for the California Desert, which CalWild leads.

Mojave Trails National Monument – One of North America’s most unique landscapes, the Mojave Desert is home to vital wildlife habitat, unspoiled desert vistas, and an incredible slice of American history. Mojave Trails is the connective tissue linking Mojave National Preserve to Joshua Tree National Park and existing Wilderness Areas, providing habitat for sensitive wildlife and pristine scenery. It contains irreplaceable archaeological and cultural sites including sacred Native American trails and trade routes.

Sand to Snow National Monument – Rising dramatically from the Sonoran Desert floor to snowy peaks of Mount San Gorgonio, Southern California’s tallest alpine mountain, the Sand to Snow National Monument is one of the most critical wildlife corridors in Southern California. It also boasts stunning cultural sites including a rich heritage of Native American petroglyphs and mortars.

Castle Mountains National Monument – The Castle Mountains encompass native desert grasslands and wildlife habitat for golden eagles, and some of the finest Joshua tree, pinon pine, and juniper forests in the California Desert. The area features stunning vistas of the rocky California and Nevada desert mountain ranges, including Nevada’s Spirit Mountain, which is revered by southwestern Native American tribes and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Supporting the CA Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation, and Renewable Energy Act

On February 23, 2016, Senator Feinstein introduced the California Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation, and Renewable Energy Act, building on the Senator’s historic California Desert Protection Act, which became law in 1994. The new legislation is designed to protect additional land and help manage California’s desert resources by carefully balancing conservation, recreation, and renewable energy development.

The legislation is a consensus document that reflects the many uses of the desert and is the product of years of engagement with relevant stakeholders including environmental groups, local and state government officials, off-highway recreation enthusiasts, cattle ranchers, mining interests, the Department of Defense, wind and solar energy companies, California’s public utility, and many others

CalWild is continuing to work with elected officials and helping to lead the Campaign for the California Desert – a coalition of conservation groups, community leaders, and businesses – to pass the California Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation, and Renewable Energy Act.

California Desert

CalWild and our allies are working to:

  • pass the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act (CDCRA); and
  • help lead the Campaign for the California Desert – a coalition of conservation groups, community leaders, and businesses committed to protecting the Desert ;

Get The Facts

Get downloadable fact sheets on the various wilderness areas throughout the California Desert.

Find A Hike

Make your own adventure! Go on a hike and explore the California Desert.