Fire burns 155 acres of conservation land in Joshua Tree

For immediate release

A fire has burned a quarter of prized conservation land in Joshua Tree. The 623-acre parcel, owned by the Mojave Desert Land Trust, has over 10,000 Joshua trees and is important desert tortoise habitat.

The fire on Monday spread rapidly due to high winds, reaching 155 acres before it was contained. San Bernardino County Fire Department arrived at the scene quickly. The fire crews were assisted by the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and National Park Service.

A bulldozer was used to improve access for fire equipment along the eastern boundary of the parcel. Fire crews were due to remain at the site overnight putting out all embers and soaking an additional 100 ft boundary around the burn site to prevent sparks or embers from igniting a fire on adjacent areas.

The source of the blaze is being investigated and the full extent of the damage is not expected to be known for several days.

The property is known locally as the Section 33 “Gateway” property. Situated on the border of the town, the land’s thousands of Joshua trees and other native plants offer visitors their first spectacular view of Joshua Tree National Park.

The parcel provides important habitat for many species including desert tortoise, burrowing owl, bobcat, American badger, prairie falcon, and kit fox. Its central location makes it a popular open space area for the community.

It was acquired by the Mojave Desert Land Trust in 2013 through funding provided by the Department of the Navy on behalf of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the California Wildlife Conservation Board on behalf of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and public and private donations. A conservation easement has been placed over the land, which means it can never be developed.

“We are saddened to see a fire of this size affect this important ecological area. We are hoping that the rate at which the fire moved through the area and the relatively light cover of invasive plants will have prevented significant damage to the Joshua tree forest. We are grateful to San Bernardino County Fire Department for their rapid response and their efforts to contain the burn, as well as other agencies that assisted,” said Geary Hund, Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. “We will remain in close contact with the Fire Department, and when it is safe, assess the site for restoration needs. We will share information with the community and our neighbors when we learn more”.

“This parcel is very special. It is well-loved by the community and helps maintain our community’s rural character by preserving open space, access to nature, and incredible views of our National Park. It is also has very important wildlife and botanical resources, and it is part of the Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage corridor between the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms and Joshua Tree National Park.”

To better protect California desert ecosystems and resources, the Land Trust buys land in private inholdings that connect protected areas, which in turn helps ensure the maintenance of healthy populations of wildlife and native plants, now and in the future. 

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 80,000 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.

Contact: Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications

Phone: (760) 851-8394

Email: jessica@mdlt.org