Annual report: Mojave Desert Land Trust’s versatile conservation approach protects 4,156 additional acres, grows 8,953 native plants in 2021

September 2, 2022

Contact: Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications 
Phone: 760-820-2275 
Email: [email protected] 

Annual report: Mojave Desert Land Trust’s versatile conservation approach protects 4,156 additional acres, grows 8,953 native plants in 2021

Joshua Tree, California – Over 4,000 acres of the California desert were permanently protected by the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) in 2021. Significant land acquisitions included 800 acres of peaks and bajadas in the Trilobite Wilderness within Mojave Trails National Monument and one of the last privately owned parcels in the Avawatz Mountains Wilderness south of Death Valley National Park. These acquisitions in wilderness areas help preserve landscapes where people can experience silence and recreate, and flora and fauna can thrive undisturbed.

2021 was a banner year for the nonprofit. In conserving 4,156 acres in wilderness areas, national parks and monuments, and habitat linkages, MDLT reached a new milestone of over 100,000 acres of ecologically significant lands protected across the California desert. These acquisitions reflect the incredible biodiversity and dramatic landscapes of this region. During the year, 2,622 acres within 66 unique parcels were conveyed to the National Park Service, helping piece together our public lands. MDLT has conveyed more tracts of land to the NPS than any nonprofit since 2006.

MDLT released its 2021 annual report on Friday. The organization’s conservation highlights include:

  • The permanent protection of 800 acres within the Trilobite Wilderness, home to a population of 150 bighorn sheep and critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise. In the Avawatz Mountains Wilderness, a decommissioned cell tower was successfully removed to return this peak back to its pristine state. A 480-acre parcel was conserved in the Pisgah Area of Critical Environmental Concern where there are rare and sensitive plants such as the Crucifixion Thorn.
  • Despite constraints posed by the COVID pandemic, staff and volunteers were able to restore 40 acres of conserved land and 200 feet of illegal off-highway vehicle trails. Over 31.5 tons of trash were removed from MDLT lands. Sixty 55-gallon bags of debris were removed from one Morongo Basin property alone.
  • A majority of the 8,953 plants grown in MDLT’s nursery in 2021 were for restoration projects for the Antelope Valley Resource Conservation District, Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, Transcon Environmental, Arcadis, and Wind Wolves Preserve.
  • The Mojave Desert Seed Bank served as an ex-situ conservation tool. After the Water Fire in Whitewater Preserve, MDLT provided seeds to help restore a burned meadow and wetlands. This special landscape is a nesting area for the federally endangered least Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher.
  • Nearly 140 students from Yucca Valley Elementary School participated in MDLT’s Desert Discovery Field Studies programming in 2021. These interactive lessons highlight the unique ecological and cultural values of the Mojave Desert.
  • Interns with the Women In Science Discovering Our Mojave (WISDOM) program spent a year studying night sky quality at 16 locations to help the Bureau of Land Management in its efforts to seek International Dark Sky Sanctuary recognition for these public lands. Their findings provided a new baseline of data about the Mojave Desert.
  • MDLT established a Prairie Falcon Conservation Program that will set up a database of active nesting sites (“eyries”) within the California Desert Conservation Area and evaluate threats impacting these majestic birds of prey.
  • MDLT was one of four co-sponsors of the California Desert Conservation Program, successful legislation that will bring much-needed funding to the region. The bill went into effect on January 1, 2022 and will provide new grant funding to local governments, tribes, and nonprofits for biodiversity conservation, cultural and historical preservation, recreation projects, restoration of damaged lands, and climate resiliency projects in the California desert.

Joint Executive Directors Kelly Herbinson and Cody Hanford took over the helm of the Mojave Desert Land Trust in the fall of 2021. Former Executive Director Geary Hund now serves on the Trust’s Board of Directors.

“2021 was a landmark year for the Mojave Desert Land Trust. We are proud and grateful to have reached a new milestone in our conservation work with over 100,000 acres protected. There is an increasing urgency to this work in light of the myriad threats facing the California desert. We are confident that our multifaceted approach will help ensure the long-term prosperity of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, and the unique plants, animals, and people that rely on them,” said Kelly Herbinson and Cody Hanford, Joint Executive Directors.

Note to editors:

To download a copy of the 2021 annual report, please click here.

To download photos, click here.