Congress Back in Session Next Week...

...and there are a couple of proposed bills that could benefit desert conservation and promote sensible land management.


California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010)
We will see if Senator Feinstein is able to push CDPA 2010 (S.2921) beyond the Committee stage and out for a full vote before Congress.  Congress only has until November to get this done, but the pace of industrial development impacting public lands requires sensible land management policy.  CDPA 2010 would preserve desert lands for the public to enjoy without affecting energy development elsewhere in California's desert.  Kevin from Basin and Range Watch noted in a previous comment on this blog, however, that the bill would release some wilderness study areas, making them vulnerable to energy development.  I know some of these study areas would ultimately be included in one of the two national monuments that the bill would create, but it's not clear to me how much of the areas would be lost (welcome comments that could clarify this!).


Clean Energy, Community Investment, and Wildlife Conservation Act (S.3587 or H.5735)
Before Congress went on recess this summer, Republican Congressman Dean Heller and Democrat Senator Harry Reid proposed this bill to re-structure the way that energy companies take advantage of public lands.  The legislation would start a pilot project to identify and auction appropriate public lands for energy companies to use, while the royalties paid by the energy companies would be split with State and County governments.  A portion of the proceeds (35%) would also benefit a wildlife conservation fund that would support habitat improvement and conservation in the desert.  If the legislation passes, this program could take up to two years to implement, and would not stop energy companies destroying other public land in the meantime.   However, the wildlife fund would provide another revenue source that could be used to better manage and conserve desert habitat.

Comments

  1. I'm sorry but if it has Reid's name on it, you better watch out. I don't think that he's seen one project yet that he doesn't like.

    Call me a skeptic but I trust him about as far as I can throw him.

    I liked him better when he was more real, you know like when he threatened another member of congress with maybe it was time to settle things around back of the pool hall. At least he got respect then.

    Now he seems to be all about bending over backwards for the developers.

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  2. According to someone I chatted with from the National Parks and Conservation Association, NPCA has helped identify 350,000 acres of "disturbed" land that could be developed as compensation for the monument. He finally admitted he was talking about the Solar PEIS; map here: http://solareis.anl.gov/documents/maps/studyareas/Solar_Study_Area_CA_Ltt_7-09.pdf

    He made it sound like NPCA help identify these sacrifice lands, but I don't know exactly if they are just supporting it or actually helped make the map.

    So I am now wondering if Feinstein had the PEIS maps in mind when the energy development part of the bill was created. If that is true, than the bill sacrifices 200,000 acres of the whole Chuckwalla Valley as well as the Calico and Imperial Sites. To be fair, these areas would probably see the same threats of energy sprawl with or without the Desert Bill,but that is an unacceptable conservation proposal. Otherwise I think the 2010 desert bill would be a splendid idea. I just think Chuckwalla Valley by itself could be a National Park and we are not willing to trade it for another part of the desert.

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  3. Kevin, Thanks for the clarification. I agree that Feinstein definitely considered the PEIS lands when she carved out the monuments and wilderness areas. I know that is part of the talking points in favor of the legislation, that it will not inhibit lands identified for solar purposes. It's unfortunate that even these compromises seem to allow for way too much destruction. Perhaps the nature and pace of destruction that is about to occur in California's deserts will wake up more people to the inherent insanity in reliance upon utility-scale solar as our primary answer to global warming.

    I appreciate your view on CDPA 2010, especially given your background in NPS and desert conservation.

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