Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

The beautiful Silurian Valley in the Mojave Desert should be preserved for future generations to explore.
John Dittli
The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a landmark collaborative effort to better manage conservation strategy for California’s Mojave and Sonoran Desert regions, while ensuring sufficient land to develop renewable energy projects.

Once finalized, the DRECP will determine places in the California Desert to protect for future generations and where to build clean energy projects that can help California meet its ambitious goal of producing 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by the year 2030. 

The plan being prepared by the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies covers nearly 10 million acres of California public land. It will protect the desert’s most valuable lands from development, including habitat for animals such as desert tortoise and bighorn sheep. With uncertainty about how plants and animals will react to climate change, the DRECP helps ensure that connectivity across the vast desert is maintained, so that a wide variety of species has enough space to move and adapt to warming temperatures. The plan also helps conserve important historic and cultural heritage in the region, while making sure the desert continues to be accessible for recreation and enjoyment by all.

Conservationists, scientists, recreational users and elected officials agree that a strong plan is needed to ensure California’s treasured public lands are managed for the future through a smart 21st century pathway that balances the need for clean energy with the exceptional natural, cultural and recreational values of the desert.

Why protect the California Desert

Updating old policies and guidelines and using new scientific information to determine  how the California desert is managed will be critical to the health and vibrancy of the desert for future generations.

The California desert boasts some of the best solar resources in the world along with wind and geothermal resources. The desert is also fragile and contains:

  • Scenery: Desert mountain ranges, wildflower-filled valleys and dark night skies
  • Recreation: Hiking, climbing and bird-watching
  • History: Ancient rock art and old mining history
  • Wildlife: Unique and endangered birds, animals and plants, such as golden eagles, desert tortoises and Joshua trees
  • Wilderness: Hundreds of thousands of acres that are truly wild

View Desert Treasure: 12 California gems worth protecting

Finding the right places

Wind and solar energy development is appropriate in some areas but development should be avoided in our most sensitive places—California’s desert treasures. When we guide projects to more suitable areas, like rooftops, already degraded lands or pre-screened zones we can avoid conflict with wildlife, wildlands and recreation opportunities. This is increasingly important as America looks to transition to cleaner types of energy to reduce climate pollution.

To strike the right balance in the desert it is important to identify the places that should be conserved for future generations. These efforts should also include finding the right places for wind and solar energy.

The DRECP can help do that by:

  • Identifying pre-screened zones, called Development Focus Areas, that are suitable for large-scale clean energy development including solar, wind and geothermal. 
  • Identifying lands that should be preserved as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, or our National Conservation Lands. A final DRECP could ensure that millions of acres in the California desert are left in a natural state for future generations.
  • Establishing new guidelines and practices for reducing the impacts from energy development on public lands through effective mitigation. Mitigation should ensure that the impacts of development projects on the land are reduced or offset by increasing conservation benefits in other areas.

A successful Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will help California achieve its clean energy goals and also conserve the unique places and lands that are important for species protection, provide benefits to local communities and draw visitors from near and far to enjoy the desert.

Get Involved

Help us protect the California desert’s most special places by signing up for our WildAlert list for future opportunities to ensure these special desert lands are forever preserved.

See also:


Related Content