Our desert lands are facing a new threat. The Bureau of Land Management wants to review a plan that governs the entire California desert. It is asking for public comments and is holding a series of public meetings on a proposal that could change how desert lands are used.
The public has until March 22 to submit comments to the BLM. That’s where you come in. In this article, we provide several resources to help you submit your comments or find a public meeting near you, and we provide some talking points that you can use.
Why does this matter?
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is an innovative plan developed using the public process and scientific studies. The plan is the product of 8 years of collaboration between state and federal agencies, conservationists, outdoor recreationalists, industry, and the public. Changing the plan now would throw away many years of progress.
The DRECP carefully balances environmental conservation with renewable energy development. It ensures that energy developers have an appropriately designated place to develop, takes development pressure off rural communities, reduces conflicts over land use, and protects ecologically vulnerable areas and public access to public lands. The California Energy Commission says that with the plan in place, California will meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.
Changes to the plan would mean that industrial-scale energy development could occur in outdoor recreation areas and conservation lands. Among the many areas at risk of development is the Chuckwalla Bench. This is the only place on Earth that the rare Munz Cholla cactus (pictured below) can be found, and it is critical habitat for the desert tortoise. Development in this area would affect this special place.
What can I do?
- Comment! The desert needs you to voice your support for our public lands. Tell the BLM to keep our desert plan intact! Our friends at California Desert National Conservation Lands have made it easy for you to sign their online petition.
- Attend a public meeting! Find a meeting in your area and raise your concerns with county and elected officials there. Find your nearest meeting here.
- Call or email your County Supervisor! County governments have a key role in the review process. Let your County Supervisor know how important this issue is to residents and visitors to the California desert. Find your County Supervisor’s contact information here.
What should I say?
We have prepared the following points that you can use for comments to the BLM, to your County Supervisor, or at public meetings:
Dear Bureau of Land Management:
I urge you to leave the DRECP intact. Opening the DRECP will create uncertainty for local counties, industry, wildlife agencies, outdoor recreation, and rural communities. Undoing the work of 8 years of planning and compromise will waste a great deal of time and money invested by both the federal and state governments and is unlikely to result in a better plan.
Opening the plan will also remove certainty for renewable energy developers. By creating uncertainty about the future location of renewable energy on public lands, more development will seek out private lands, which are generally located in and around rural communities. This could also result in more disputes over land use, which can delay development projects.
Special places in the California desert are protected by the plan — like Juniper Flats near Apple Valley, Chuckwalla Bench in Imperial County, and Chemehuevi Valley. Additionally, the DRECP contains recreation plans for these areas to encourage responsible camping, hunting, vehicle use, and other public use.
Please support the DRECP and the public interests the plan represents.