...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.