Why the California Desert

California Desert
Parker Michael Knight- Flickr
The California desert, nearly 25 million acres of mostly public lands sandwiched between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, may seem vast and empty but it harbors amazing qualities and has immense value.

The desert's biological diversity, dark night skies, scenic vistas and abundant recreational opportunities - from hiking and camping to climbing and four-wheel drive touring on back roads - draws visitors from near and far and plays a big role in serving local communities. 

The California desert also contains some of the world’s best solar resources and there is very high demand for both solar and wind energy development in the region.

Our work focuses on ensuring the desert’s most special places are protected. At the same time, we are working to help direct wind and solar energy to the most suitable places. Passage of the California Desert Protection Act could also permanently protect some of the desert’s special places, enhancing opportunities for recreation and tourism. This is key to the future of the desert.

The California desert – a remarkable landscape

The California desert represents a coming together of three great U.S. deserts:

  • the Mojave Desert
  • the Colorado Desert
  • the Great Basin Desert

The desert contains tremendous biological diversity – more than 1,800 types of plants and 600 kinds of animals, ranging from showy Joshua Trees to ancient bristlecone pines, to the storied desert tortoise and tiny desert pupfish. Many of these plants and animals have developed remarkable adaptation skills to be able to live in this dry, harsh environment. And in some places, water bubbles to the surface from deep underground, fostering desert oases and thriving life.

The desert contains important human history too, from tank tracks and other remnants of General George S. Patton’s World War II training camps to old mining trails and historic trade routes. Prehistoric desert inhabitants left remains of villages and petroglyphs which are still visible today.

Our desert, our future

We have an opportunity to ensure that the desert’s special places are protected from development that would harm important wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities. We want to make sure that renewable energy projects in particular are developed in the most suitable areas.

Federal, state and local agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are developing plans to ensure renewable energy development happens in the right places. Lands that are important for wildlife habitat, recreation and scenic vistas need to be protected from solar and wind development. There is room for all of these values in the California desert, if proper planning is established soon.

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