Below the rocky, sunbaked ridges of the Clipper Mountains in the Mojave Desert, a ribbon of green teems with life. Cottonwoods, willows and reeds sway with the breeze. Crickets chirp. Bees buzz around shallow pools. Clear water gushes from a hole in the ground, forming Bonanza Spring, the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert. This rare oasis is at the center of the fight over a company’s plan to pump groundwater and sell it to California cities.
A new study, funded by the Mojave Desert Land Trust, has found that one of the Mojave Desert’s largest natural springs would be threatened by a proposed water project that would pump 16 billion gallons of water per year from an underground aquifer. Bonanza Spring is located just 11 miles from Cadiz, Inc., which plans to pump and sell the water to Los Angeles-area water agencies. The study says that Bonanza Spring, located in the Mojave Trails National Monument a few miles north of Route 66, is connected to the Cadiz aquifer, and that pumping out so much water would dry up the spring.
What do you see when you look at a desert? An empty space? A forbidding wasteland? For some, the sun is too bright, the air too dry, and the cactus too thorny. Others might find the desert a nice place to visit, but no place to live. But for some people—desert people—the space and the solitude found where the soil turns to sand is an invitation to create and explore. In the high Mojave Desert east of Los Angeles, the unincorporated community of Joshua Tree is home to offbeat artists, rock climbers, and a military community: people who’ve found something in the desert worth staying for.
Conservationists are also frustrated that DRECP has been unceremoniously reopened after years of hard work. Over the course of its development, DRECP went through severe growing pains. In 2015, renewable energy developers and conservationists wrote an unusual joint letter to federal officials in which they complained about the plan’s “pervasive lack of clarity.” But by the time the plan was completed in the fall of 2016, it represented an achievement across coalitions.
The Mojave Desert Land Trust announced Monday it has appointed an interim executive director. Rich Weideman, who spent 33 years with the National Park Service, most recently as assistant director of partnerships and civic engagement in Washington, D.C., will replace Danielle Segura, who left to take a position with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
It looks like a barren no man’s land, but the vast desert outside Indio, Calif., has many suitors. Conservationists see its acres of creosote bush and cholla cactus as a rare habitat for tortoises, pronghorn antelope and an elusive variety of mule deer. Energy companies view its sunbaked plains and windswept ridgelines as prime perches for solar panels and wind turbines. Dirt tracks that wiggle across its sandy washes are testament to its popularity among off-road motorsports enthusiasts.
About 100 volunteers from out of town gathered around shovels and gloves to begin a day of trash pickup in the surrounding desert of the Joshua Tree National Park. The site they decided to clean sits along Long Canyon, and Jacqueline Guevara, Director of Public Engagement with the Mojave Desert Land Trust, said you can find just about anything buried in the desert.
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is a joint venture between California and the federal government to support renewable energy development while simultaneously protecting millions of acres of our state’s ecologically fragile desert.
The Trump Administration announced yesterday that it will consider scrapping a conservation plan developed during the Obama Administration to protect millions of acres of desert in California. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, finalized in 2016, was an eight-year effort to protect 10.8 million acres of sensitive desert ecosystems—including Joshua trees, desert tortoises, and bighorn sheep—by limiting where solar and wind energy projects could be developed. Reconsidering the desert conservation plan could open millions of acres of land to solar and wind development, and possibly to mining, grazing, and off-road vehicles as well.
The Federal Bureau of Land Management said Thursday it will consider amending a desert land use conservation plan, which could reopen millions of acres “to seek greater opportunities for renewable energy generation.” BLM said it will open a 45-day public comment period on 10.8 million acres of BLM managed land for possible changes to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. The majority of that land is in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.