Bob Wick, BLM.
California’s vast and magnificent deserts are home to iconic wildlife, incredible outdoor recreation opportunities and stunning scenic landscapes, as well as some of the nation’s best renewable energy resources.
State and federal agencies have prepared the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) to address the many values and needs in the desert. The plan could protect over three million acres of wildlands and wildlife habitat while finding more appropriate places for renewable energy development.
While it’s a step in the right direction, the plan still needs to be improved in several ways:
- It should protect places that have been identified as wilderness quality lands in the California desert.
- More than three million acres of public lands should be added to the BLM’s National Conservation Lands system for their wildlife, cultural, scenic and recreational values.
- Silurian Valley is one of many wild places that should be protected from renewable energy development.
- The proposed renewable energy “Development Focus Areas” should be modified to confine development to the most suitable, low conflict areas, address community concerns and protect wildlife habitat and wildlands.
- There are appropriate places for development and the DRECP should help guide projects to those places. Where there is development, in places like the Salton Sea, funds generated from development there should be used to help restore other parts of this unique and important wildlife area.
The DRECP could help strike a balance between conservation and development, and ensure our desert legacy is preserved for generations to come. Without improvements to this plan, we could continue to see wildlife and wildlands threatened by development and face challenges in meeting our state’s clean energy goals.
State and federal agencies need to improve the DRECP by adding needed protections for the California desert and ensuring renewable energy projects are developed in the right places.