Desert sunflower

In February 2015, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the California Desert Conservation & Recreation Act, S.414, which builds 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 companies and many others.

Click Here to read a summary of the new legislation.

The bill’s key provisions:

  • Creates two new national monuments: —  The Mojave Trails National Monument, which would encompass 942,000 acres of land, including former railroad-owned lands. —  The Sand to Snow National Monument, which would encompass 135,000 acres of land from desert floor in the Coachella Valley to the top of Mount San Gorgonio.
  • Designates five Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wilderness areas covering approximately 204,650 acres.
  • Designates 73 miles of waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
  • Adds 32,520 acres of wilderness and 6,369 acres non-wilderness to Death Valley National Park, and designates 59,076 acres of wilderness within DVNP.
  • Adds 4,518 acres to Joshua Tree National Park and 21,000 acres to the Mojave National Preserve.
  • Adds 95,110 acres to existing BLM wilderness and 7,141 acres to USFS wilderness.
  • Designates five existing BLM Off-Highway Vehicle areas (covering approximately 135,000 acres of California desert) as permanent Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation areas, providing off-highway enthusiasts certainty that these uses will be protected as much as conservation areas.
  • Designates the Alabama Hills as a National Scenic Area.
  • Designates the Black Lava Buttes and Flat Top Mesa as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
  • Provides a balanced approach to renewable energy development by:
  • Requires the Department of the Interior to exchange 370,000 acres of federal land for state land, allowing the state to use these new areas for commercial purposes including clean energy.
  • Allows for new transmission lines in the Mojave Trails National Monument on existing transmission corridors.
  • Provides a plan for revenue sharing with state and local governments generated from leasing of federal land within the desert.