Signed bill paves way for land transfers to Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 12, 2019

Contact: Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications, Mojave Desert Land Trust

Phone: 760-820-2275

jessica@mdlt.org  

JOSHUA TREE – A 10-year journey to expand the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park was successfully completed on Tuesday following the presidential signing of the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act. The new boundary encompasses over 1,600 acres of pristine desert owned by the Mojave Desert Land Trust, which plans to donate these lands to the National Park Service.

The properties lie with a critical wildlife corridor and were identified by the park as high priority acquisitions. They are important sites for species habitat, including bighorn sheep, bobcat, desert tortoise, Joshua trees and pinyon-juniper woodland. One property is an important cultural site with indigenous rock art.

“We worked hard over the course of over 10 years along with many of our partners and supporters to make this incredible expansion of the park a reality. Land acquired by the Mojave Desert Land Trust is now in a position to be transferred over to National Park Service, improving public access, wildlife habitat, and cultural resources values. The passage of the bill also lays the groundwork for additional efforts by the Mojave Desert Land Trust and its partners to protect other desert lands of importance to conservation. We applaud Senator Feinstein and Representative Cook for their leadership on this landmark achievement.” – Geary Hund, Executive Director, Mojave Desert Land Trust

The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act was one of a number of bills included in the bipartisan public lands package signed by President Trump on March 12. The package permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the main funding source for federal agencies to acquire land.

“This enables the acquisition of land for the benefit of all Americans and helps in the collaboration with our federal partners to make important additions to our incredible system of desert parks, monuments and wilderness areas. It helps us fulfil our vision of a system of interconnected lands by providing funds for conservation land acquisition.” – Geary Hund, Executive Director, Mojave Desert Land Trust

In the year ahead, the Mojave Desert Land Trust will be conveying 680 acres to Death Valley National Park using LWCF funding. Those properties include salt flats, canyons, and former mining claims. LWCF will also be used to transfer over 2,000 acres of wilderness owned by the Land Trust and 765 acres within Mojave Trails National Monument to the Bureau of Land Management.

The public lands package will safeguard millions of acres across America, including some 500,000 acres of the California desert. It adds to the protection of public lands for conservation purposes, including the designation of new wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers, and the expansion of existing national parks and wilderness areas. 

“This legislation is a huge win for conservation nationwide and the Mojave Desert in particular.  It ensures that some of the most important natural and cultural resources in the Mojave Desert will be protected and connected in perpetuity. It contributes to the creation of an interconnected system of reserves including Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Trails National Monument, and the Mojave National Preserve. These areas are critically important to maintaining the health of desert ecosystems and more specifically, they are important to iconic desert species such as desert tortoise and bighorn sheep.” – Geary Hund, Executive Director, Mojave Desert Land Trust

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic, and cultural value within the Mojave Desert. Since its founding in 2006 the land trust has conserved more than 72,00 acres, donating more tracts of land to the National Park Service in the last decade than any other organization. In addition to acquiring land, the land trust established a seed bank to ensure the preservation of native species. MDLT operates an onsite nursery at its Joshua Tree headquarters which propagates native species for ecosystem restoration. MDLT educates and advocates for the conservation of the desert, involving hundreds of volunteers in our work. For more information, visit mdlt.org.