Desert Conservation Groups Cheer Signing of Assembly Bill 1183

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2021

Desert Conservation Groups Cheer Signing of Assembly Bill 1183

Contacts:
Cody Hanford, Mojave Desert Land Trust, cody@mdlt.org, 865-414-0931
Nasrat Esmaty, Defenders of Wildlife, NEsmaty@defenders.org, 916-562-2547
Brenda Gallegos, Hispanic Access Foundation, brenda@hispanicaccess.org, 915-491-9546
Janessa Goldbeck, VetVoice Foundation, janessa@vetvoicefoundation.org, 760-518-7447

Groups thank Governor Newsom for signing this important desert conservation investment bill

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1183, bringing California’s desert region essential funding for conservation, recreation, and environmental education projects. Assembly Member James C. Ramos authored AB 1183, which will establish the Desert Conservation Program under the state’s Wildlife Conservation Board. The program will provide new grant funding to local governments, tribes, non-profit organizations and other entities for biodiversity conservation, cultural and historical preservation, recreation projects, restoration of damaged lands, and climate resiliency projects in the California desert.

“We commend Assembly Member Ramos for his leadership on this important legislation that will bring much-needed conservation investments to California’s iconic desert region, which is home to the largest still-intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states,” said Pamela Flick, California Program Director with Defenders of Wildlife.

California’s deserts face many threats. Climate change effects are resulting in increased fire risk due to higher average annual temperatures and longer droughts. Infestations of invasive, non-native plants make deserts more flammable, crowding out native wildflowers and reducing forage for wildlife. Increased development is reducing and fragmenting habitat. Illegal marijuana cultivation is also on the rise. These threats present a critical need for conservation funding.

While the California desert region makes up 28% of the state, it has largely been left behind where conservation funding is concerned. Existing conservancies and conservancy programs elsewhere in the state have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, illustrating the benefit of the proposed program. “Having the Desert Conservation Program will increase access to nature for communities of color and ensure equity in how funds are spent on protection, to assure all communities have safe, accessible public spaces and nature where they can recreate and restore,” said Brenda Gallegos, Conservation Program Associate of Hispanic Access Foundation.

“California deserts are a national treasure for their vast and dramatic landscapes, spectacular geology, dark night skies, and diverse array of plants and animals. They are places of wonder and discovery where one can find respite from the frenetic pace of modern life,” said Geary Hund, Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. “But this same region is severely lacking in direct investment to protect and restore our invaluable natural and cultural resources. The enactment of this legislation will give a significant part of our state’s natural and cultural heritage the much-deserved support it needs.”

Approximately half of the State’s population lives in or within an hour’s drive of the Desert Region. These vast open space areas are the ancestral territory of several Indigenous peoples and serve many disadvantaged communities who are increasingly utilizing these areas for recreation. One measure of the soaring popularity of the desert is an increase in visitation at Joshua Tree National Park from approximately 1.5 million visitors per year in 2013 to more than three million in 2020. Despite the proximity and popularity of the Desert Region, grant funding from the State is largely not available to achieve conservation needs due to the large geographic size.

“Veterans share a strong connection with the outdoors and believe that protecting our public lands is a patriotic duty,” said Janessa Goldbeck, California Director for VetVoice Foundation. “More than 220,000 veterans and military families live in and around the California desert. This unique landscape not only provides a place for veterans to recreate, but also to heal from the mental, physical, and moral wounds of war. AB 1183 helps ensure that such an important resource will be protected for generations to come.”

The bill co-sponsors – Mojave Desert Land Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Hispanic Access Foundation, and VetVoice Foundation – thank Governor Newsom for signing this important bill into law, which will go into effect as of January 1, 2022.

 

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 101,528 acres, conveying 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.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Hispanic Access Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that improves the lives of Hispanics in the United States and promotes civic engagement by educating, motivating, and helping them to access trustworthy support systems. For more information, please visit www.hispanicaccess.org.

Founded in 2009, the mission of VetVoice Foundation is to empower Veterans across the country to become civic leaders and policy advocates by providing the support, training, and tools they need to continue their service and find new missions at home. VVF seeks to harness the energy and drive of the dedicated men and women who have fought for their country and put it to work at home and in their communities on the important issues they face, such as the environment, voting rights, disinformation, health care, jobs, and more. For more information, visit https://vvfnd.org/