Fact Sheet: Desert

Fact Sheet: Desert

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CalWild has found the following lands in the California Desert to be wilderness eligible, as that term is defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964:

 

Big Maria Mountains Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: Riverside County, north of I-10 near Blythe and the California-Arizona border
  • Size: Seven units, surrounding the existing Big Maria Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 17,257 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for the desert tortoise, elf owl, Gila woodpecker, gilded flicker, Yuma clapper rail, all of which are federal and/or state listed species, as well as many other species.
  • Other values: All four of the eastern units are less than a mile away from the Colorado River, which increases the probability that they possess critical ecological and cultural resources.  The Blythe intaglio site is 1.7 miles from the easternmost unit.  Important site complexes have been recorded on the flanks of the Big Marias and aboriginal trails are known to run into the mountains from both the east and west.  Portions of the western units are part of the California Desert National Conservation Lands and one of the eastern units is in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  The nearby Colorado River also provides water-related recreational opportunities for visitors to this area.

Desert tortoise

Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: Riverside County, south of I-10 and Desert Center and west of Blythe
  • Size: Six units, located to the south and east of the existing Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 59,298 acres
  • Management agency: BLM, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for a stunning array of plants and animals including desert bighorn sheep, elf owl (state endangered), and Mojave fringe-toed lizard.  The area is also critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  The flora on the Chuckwalla Bench, a part of which is located in the Proposed Additions, is one of the richest in the Colorado Desert within California, with at least 158 plant species occurring here.
  • Other values: Diverse terrain and outstanding views.  Important for scientific study; in particular, botanists’ study of Munz’s cholla.  Adjacent to the Bradshaw Trail National Backcountry Byway, a popular 4×4 trail.  Corn Springs Campground is located at the northern boundary of the existing Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness.  All of the Proposed Additions are part of the California Desert National Conservation Lands and have been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Coso Range Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: In Inyo County, east of Olancha and south of Owens Lake and Highway 190
  • Size: Three units, located to the north of the existing Coso Range Wilderness, totaling approximately 14,164 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Ridgecrest Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for several endangered and threatened species including least Bell’s vireo, Mohave ground squirrel, and western snowy plover. Also Joshua tree habitat.
  • Other values: Numerous cultural resources, including petroglyphs.  All of the Proposed Additions are part of the California Desert National Conservation Lands and have been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Daggett Ridge Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: San Bernardino County, south of I-40, east of Highway 247 and west of the Newberry Mountains Wilderness
  • Size: Approximately 12,152 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for desert tortoise, several species of bats, Le Conte’s thrasher, Bendire’s thrasher, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, among others.  Located within critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  Nesting area for golden eagles.  Located within Mojave Monkeyflower Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Ord-Rodman Desert Wildlife Management Area.
  • Other values: provides outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation such as hiking, rock hounding, photography, bird watching, and climbing.  Hiking to the top of the ridgeline provides excellent views of the Ord Mountains and the colorful layers of rock on the ridgeline of Daggett Ridge.  The area is also located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Danby Lake Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: Southern San Bernardino County, north of Highway 62 and west of Cadiz Road
  • Size: Approximately 35,606 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management Needles Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for desert bighorn sheep, hepatic tanager, five distinct plant communities, and wetlands.  In addition, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recognizes the area as a wildlife migration corridor.
  • Other values: Located in an area of the desert with no light pollution, making it an excellent location for stargazing.  Also located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Hepatic tanager

Hollow Hills Wilderness (Proposed Additions) 

  • Location: San Bernardino County, north of Highway 15 and west of Highway 127 near Baker
  • Size: Approximately 6,631 acres adjacent to the southern boundary of the existing Hollow Hills Wilderness
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Needles Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for several threatened imperiled species including desert tortoise, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, yellow-breasted chat and vermilion flycatcher.  Critical habitat for the desert tortoise. California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recognized the area as being within a wildlife migration corridor.
  • Other values: Scenic backdrop for I-15 and Highway 127.  Located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Mojave fringe-toed lizard

Little Chuckwalla Mountains Proposed Wilderness Additions

  • Location: Riverside County, south of I-10 between the existing Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness and Little Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness
  • Size: Approximately 14,058 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
  • Ecological values: Designated critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  Habitat for six different plant communities.  Recognized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as a wildlife migration corridor.  Washes in the area contain ecologically important ironwood groves that teem with songbirds.
  • Other values: Outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive forms of recreation.  Most of the Proposed Additions are located in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and all of the Proposed Additions are located in California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Mule Mountains Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: Riverside County, south of I-10 and the Bradshaw Trail National Backcountry Byway, and west of the Colorado River
  • Size: Approximately 8,391 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, South Coast-Palm Springs Field Office
  • Ecological values: habitat for a good number of species that are vulnerable to, and could easily become threatened or endangered including burrowing owl, Crissal thrasher, pallid bat, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard.  The area is also in critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.  The washes in the area hold extensive woodland thickets which are a haven for songbirds and other species.
  • Other values: The Mule Mountains hold significant cultural importance to the Mojave and Quechan tribes.  The area holds numerous cultural resources, paleontological resources (e.g., Pleistocene-age fossils) and historic resources (e.g., mining era and WWII).  Located adjacent to the Bradshaw Trail National Backcountry Byway, a popular 4×4 trail.  Located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Newberry Mountains Wilderness Proposed Additions

  • Location: San Bernardino County, south of I-40 and east of Barstow.
  • Size: Six units, on all sides of the existing Newberry Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 5,571 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office
  • Ecological values: Critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  The area contains eight distinct plant communities and is recognized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife as a wildlife migration corridor.  An unusual plant assemblage (UPA) can be found in the Proposed Addition abutting the southern Newberry Mountains Wilderness.  The Johnson Valley/Lucerne Valley Creosote Bush Clone UPA holds Creosote Bush Rings that may be the oldest known living plants in the California desert; estimates place them between 11,000 and 12,000 years old.
  • Other values: Scenic views of rugged volcanic mountains, incised drainages, and multicolored sedimentary rock escarpments in the Wilderness.  Located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Orocopia Mountains Wilderness Proposed Additions

  • Location: Riverside County, south of I-10 and Chiriaco Summit
  • Size: Four units on the north, west, and east boundaries of the existing Orocopia Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 21,438 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for desert bighorn sheep, triple-ribbed milk-vetch (federal endangered), Emory’s crucifixion-thorn, and many other species.  Also critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  CDFW recognizes the area as a wildlife migration corridor.
  • Other values: Five new fossilized species of ancient marine mollusks were discovered here. The area is in the California Desert National Conservation Lands and Designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  The Bradshaw Trail, a popular 4×4 trail, runs along the southern boundary of one of the units.

Palen-McCoy Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, west of the Colorado River, north of I-10, and north/northwest of Blythe
  • Size: Approximately 23,804 acres, comprised of four units all adjoining the northern and eastern sides of the existing Palen-McCoy Wilderness
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for a good number of species including the California leaf-nosed bat, pallid bat, desert bighorn sheep, Emory’s crucifixion-thorn, and the threatened desert tortoise.  The Proposed Additions are also located within a wildlife migration corridor recognized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Other values: The northern unit lies near Camp Granite, one of the division camps used by General Patton to train American troops for battle in North Africa in World War II.  Two of the eastern units flank Palen Pass Road.  Palen Pass was the site of the largest maneuvers during the life of the Desert Training Center (WWII training center that spanned California, Arizona and a small portion of Nevada).  The army built fortifications consisting of gun emplacements, barbed-wire entanglements, bunkers, minefields, foxholes.  Several maneuvers were also held in the area.  Vestiges of the Army’s training in the area remain today for visitors to explore.  All of the Proposed Additions are located in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and almost all are also located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Palen Lake Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: San Bernardino County, north of I-10 east of Highway 177 and Joshua Tree National Park
  • Size: Approximately 16,020 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for several threatened and sensitive species including desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, golden eagle, and burrowing owl.  Area has wetlands, seven distinct plant communities as is in a wildlife migration corridor (recognized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife).
  • Other values: Cultural resources, including ancient trails, possible village sites, and other signs of centuries of human use.  Historically significant (used by General Patton for training troops to fight in North Africa in World War II.  Part of the California Desert National Conservation Lands and overlaps with the Desert Lily Sanctuary Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Desert lily

Pinto Mountain Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: San Bernardino County, 3.4 miles southeast of Twentynine Palms, south of Highway 62 and north of the existing Pinto Mountains Wilderness and Joshua Tree National Park
  • Size: Approximately 28,820 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for desert bighorn sheep and 11 distinct plant communities.  Also critical habitat for the desert tortoise.
  • Other values: A significant amount of the Proposed Additions are part of the California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Desert bighorn sheep – photo by David Lamfrom

Riverside Mountains Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: Riverside and San Bernardino County, to the immediate west of Highway 95 and the Colorado River, south of Vidal, and west of Parker, AZ
  • Size: Approximately 5,357 acres located adjacent to the northeastern boundary of the existing Riverside Mountains Wilderness
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast and Needles Field Offices
  • Ecological values: Habitat for numerous species including the following state endangered species:  western yellow-billed cuckoo, elf owl, Gila woodpecker, gilded flicker.  Also habitat for the federally endangered desert tortoise.  The area also has eight distinct plant communities.
  • Other values: Its close proximity to the Colorado River increases the likelihood that the area holds significant cultural resources.  The nearby Colorado River also provides water-related recreational opportunities for visitors to this area.  Much of the Proposed Additions is located within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Rodman Mountains Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: San Bernardino County, south of I-40 and south-southeast of Newbury Springs
  • Size: Six units on all sides of the existing Rodman Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 18,395 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for threatened and imperiled species such as desert bighorn sheep and golden eagle, as well as nine distinct plant communities.  Also critical habitat for desert tortoise.  California Department of Fish and Wildlife recognizes that the area lies within a wildlife migration corridor.
  • Other values: Cultural resources, including petroglyphs.  The Proposed Additions are located completely with an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  There is also some overlap with California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Rose Valley/McCloud Flat Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: Inyo County, east of Highway 395, south of Haiwee Reservoir and north of Coso Junction
  • Size: Approximately 21,840 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Ridgecrest Field Office
  • Ecological values: Extensive Mohave ground squirrel habitat due to vegetation type and loose soils.  Raptors are also present because of the many rock outcrops that allow them to perch above the flats. Suitable raptor nesting sites occur in the nooks and crannies of the boulder jumbles. Valuable Joshua tree woodland habitat used by loggerhead shrikes, ladder-backed woodpeckers, cactus wrens, and dozens of other bird species – both residents and migrants. The boulder habitat and abandoned features are also used by a variety of bat species, including pallid bats.
  • Other values: Outstanding volcanic displays, large outcroppings of obsidian, and evidence of Paiute Indian habitation. The area is rich in cultural resources. In many places, the ground is covered with lithic scatter. Ayers Rock, a rare pictograph site, is located here. Exceptional scenic values – hills studded with impressive rock outcrops comprised of massive granite blocks, robust stands of Joshua; stark and dramatic mountains; dark, nearly vertical walls and vivid spaces of color.  A significant portion of this area is in California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Slate Range Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: Inyo County, north/northeast of Trona and the Searles Valley, north of China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, east of Trona Wildrose Road, and west of Death Valley National Park
  • Size: Approximately 81,554 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Ridgecrest Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for the endangered Inyo California Towhee.  Located within a Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Area.  Habitat for many other species including Nelson’s desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel, and Joshua trees.  Abandoned and historic mines provide habitat for numerous bats, including Townsend’s big-eared bats.  Ephemeral wetlands and perennial pools at springs with endemic fairy shrimp.  Mesquite bosques and freshwater and saltwater marshes.  Contains an important wildlife corridor.
  • Other values: Significant cultural, historic (mining) resources and possible paleontological resources.  Located in the California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Photo courtesy of Tom Budlong

Turtle Mountains Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: San Bernardino County, north of Highway 62 and the Colorado River Aqueduct and north-northwest of Parker
  • Size: Four units abutting the east, west and southern boundaries of the existing Turtle Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 87,840 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Needles Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for a number of species, including, desert bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, Le Conte’s thrasher, burrowing owl, and 11 distinct plant communities, including Emory’s crucifixion-thorn.  Three of the four units of the Proposed Additions are located within critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  The area also lies within a wildlife migration corridor.
  • Other values: Two western units of the Proposed Additions are in the Ward Valley, a valley of great importance and sacredness to local Tribes.  The area is also part of an important cultural landscape that spans much of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in California and includes the Salt Song Trail, a trail that has been used by Native Americans for spiritual renewal and healing since prior to European contact.  Unique rock formations of the Mopah Range, including spires, pinnacles, mesas, and buttes.  Much of the Proposed Additions is in California Desert National Conservation Lands and all of them are in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Whipple Mountains Wilderness (Proposed Additions)

  • Location: San Bernardino County, north of Highway 62 and west of the Colorado River
  • Size: 11 units, located on the northwest, west, and southern boundaries of the existing Whipple Mountains Wilderness, totaling approximately 103,670 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Needles Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for the following state and/or federally listed threatened or endangered species:  Gila woodpecker, bald eagle, Yuma clapper rail, gilded flicker, western yellow-billed cuckoo, elf owl, Arizona bell’s vireo, desert tortoise, California rail.  The area also provides superior nesting and foraging habitat for a number of raptors such as golden eagles and Cooper’s hawks.  Nine units of the Proposed Additions lie within critical habitat for the desert tortoise.  The area is also located within a wildlife migration corridor, as determined by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Other values: Some of the Proposed Additions encompass some of the Chemehuevi Valley and the Colorado River, places important to several Southern Paiute tribes.  Ethnographic accounts tell of trails, including The Salt Song Trail, that went along the Colorado and through the Chemehevi Valley in this area.  Ethnographies also suggest as many as four trails traversed these lands and went directly through the Whipple Mountains from the Turtle Mountains to the Colorado River.  Much of the Proposed Additions is in California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  The nearby Colorado River also provides water-related recreational opportunities for visitors to this area.

Wildrose Wash Proposed Wilderness (North and South)

  • Location: Inyo County, in the Panamint Valley, to the west of Surprise Canyon Wilderness, about 25 miles north of Trona
  • Size: Approximately 20,238 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Ridgecrest Field Office
  • Ecological values: Habitat for a number of species including desert bighorn sheep, California towhee, Townsend’s big-eared bat, and Panamint alligator lizard.  Also habitat for ten distinct plant communities, including Mojave Riparian Forest and Mesquite Bosque.  About a sixth of the area is riparian habitat (i.e., a desert marsh).
  • Other values: This area and the entirety of the Panamint Valley, are the traditional homelands of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, who have inhabited the area for millennia.  The southern unit holds Warm Sulfur Springs Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  Sites in this area may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as districts, trail systems, or individual sites under the National Register Criteria.  Also located in California Desert National Conservation Lands.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Donnelly

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