The beauty of Joshua Tree first greets visitors and locals alike through the rise of desert lands alongside Highway 62, but these important desert lands remain at risk, protected only by the whims of those who privately own them. In response to that, The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) created and launched its campaign in 2013 to protect Highway 62 and the remaining intact desert lands along that highway in Joshua Tree, California. Over the years, residents have rallied against highway developments that threaten to interrupt critical wildlife corridors and crucial linkages, and otherwise harm our unique desert land and community. With help from supporters like you, MDLT is able to buy and protect this land before new developments can even be proposed and keep those wildlife linkage corridors intact. This is scenery worth saving. #Protect62
As big as it is, Joshua Tree National Park is but one small piece of the vastness called the Mojave Desert. The animals who live here, both large and small, depend for their health and survival on the ability to move across great distances, beyond the borders of the park. They need to do this in order to hunt, to mate, to build nests and dens, and all the other activities necessary for survival. As the desert gets developed with homes, businesses and highways, it becomes harder for desert animals to move about freely. That’s why Wildlife Linkages are so important. Linkages are natural highways between our protected desert parks, wilderness areas, forests and military bases. Without wildlife linkages, these protected lands could become islands of aging plant and animal communities, lacking vitality and adaptability. Eventually, healthy animal populations would become isolated, threatened and weakened.
The linkage design process includes both wildlife and people. Our researchers hosted many focus groups and public meetings, where we asked people what they valued about living in the desert. The answers showed a desire for a certain quality of life – wide open spaces, wildlife, closeness to nature, clean air, beautiful views, quiet, and a small-town desert feel. Maintaining wildlife linkages assures that nature and open space will remain in our backyards, as well as in the public preserves they connect. The same quality-of-life values that individuals cherish also support our economic interests, including tourism and the desirability of our area as a relocation or retirement destination. By delineating areas where development has less impact on the environment, linkage design encourages development that is in harmony with the values of those who live here. The 29 Palms Marine Base is another driver of our economy. The base manages its lands under the federal laws that protect species and the environment. It is important to the base’s mission that its vast territory stays connected to the rest of the desert, and does not become an ecological island. Therefore, the base is a strong supporter, along with Joshua Tree National Park, of regional conservation planning to protect the linkage design.
Linkage design is a collaborative scientific process involving biologists, planners and resource managers. These researchers collect a variety of data on selected species, vegetation and terrain, and analyze it using a computer. The computer creates a map based on the data, showing the best locations for linkages for different species. The map is then re-checked for accuracy in the field before a final design is reached. The goal is to provide safe passage for wildlife between protected areas. In addition to a natural highway, many species also need islands of live-in habitat equal to their home ranges. Generally the heart of the linkage is a desert wash. Washes make connections across the landscape, providing food, cover, nesting and movement corridors. They funnel air currents supporting pollen, seeds, birds, and insects. Washes recycle, store, and carry nutrients and sediment throughout the watershed and dissipate the energy of floods, reducing erosion and improving water quality. They are the circulation system of our watersheds.
In an effort to create an accurate cross-section of desert wildlife and plant life, focal species were chosen based on the diversity of their movement needs and living requirements.
25 Focal species for the Joshua Tree – Twentynine Palms Connection
- Plants: Desert lily, Black-brush, Jojoba, Mojave Yucca, and Desert willow
- Invertebrates: Alkali fairy shrimp, Meloid beetle, Velvet ant, Ford’s swallowtail butterfly
- Reptiles: Rosy boa, Chuckwalla, Mojave fringed-toes lizard, Desert tortoise
- Birds: Black-tailed gnatcatcher, LeConte’s thrasher, Black-throated sparrow, Loggerhead shrike, Burrowing owl
- Mammals: Desert kangaroo rat, Merriam’s kangaroo rat, Round-tailed ground squirrel, Bighorn sheep, American badger, Bobcat, Mountain lion
23 Focal species for the San Bernardino – Little San Bernardino Connection
- Plants: Joshua tree, White alder
- Invertebrates: Metalmark butterfly, Green hairstreak butterfly, Tarantula hawk
- Reptiles & Amphibians: California tree frog, Coast horned lizard, Chaparral whip snake, Speckled rattlesnake
- Birds: Cactus wren, Rock wren, Wrentit, Mountain quail
- Mammals: Little pocket mouse, Pacific kangaroo rat, Merriam’s kangaroo rat, Large-eared wood rat, Antelope ground squirrel, Mule deer, Nelson’s bighorn sheep, American badger, Mountain lion