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Showing posts with the label CDPA 2010

Opposition to Monuments Based on Misinformation

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A majority of Californians have expressed support for three new monuments proposed for California's desert and under consideration by the President.  Voices opposing the designation of new national monuments, however, appear to be driven by misinformation and a distorted faith in Congress to act as a responsible steward of our wildlands.  They claim that conservation has run amok, that monument designations will lock out the public, and that only Congress should decide which lands to protect.

Tyrannical Conservation Designations?
The first claim - that conservation is some oppressive land management regime that has run amok - is relatively easy to dispute.  National Parks, monuments, and wilderness areas - wildlands that are protected from most types of industrial development - account for about 4% of the total land area of the United States.  With that number in mind, consider that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of wildlife species on Earth.  This is mostly dri…

Celebrating the Desert Protection Act

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Senator Dianne Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) was signed into law 20 years ago on October 31, 1994, establishing new protections for vast stretches of the desert.  The CDPA established 69 new Wilderness areas,  created the Mojave National Preserve, converted Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments into National Parks, and added acreage to both parks.

Watching the sun set in a remote corner of the Mojave forges a connection between me and generations past, and it would be nice to know that future generations will share the same natural heritage.  Witnessing mountain shadows gently stretch across miles of open desert, hearing coyotes howl at twilight as bats flutter by, and being immersed in an infinite blanket of stars overhead are some of the treasured experiences you can have in the desert. 

These experiences are increasingly threatened, however, as cities sprawl outward, new major highways threaten to slice across the landscape, and transmission li…

Senator Feinstein Reintroduces California Land Management Bill

Senator Feinstein reintroduced the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA 2011, S.138) this month, a necessary step in order to put the legislation back in motion after Congress adjourned last year without putting the 2010 version of the bill (CDPA 2010, S.2921) to a vote.  CDPA 2011 is mostly identical to last year's legislation, except that Senator Feinstein removed provisions seeking to streamline the permitting process for utility-scale solar energy projects, a process she has previously criticized, in particular because she believed projects should be sited on already-disturbed or private land.

CDPA 2011 will create the much needed Mojave Trails National Monument (941,000 acres), and the Sand to Snow National Monument (134,000 acres), and set aside new wilderness areas throughout the Mojave Desert.  The bill would also add land to Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and Death Valley National Park.   One of Senator Feinstein's motivations in proposing the …

Reintroducing the California Desert Protection Act of 2010

Now that the 111th Congress has come and gone, legislation that was not passed last year must either be reintroduced in the 112th Congress or it will never see the light of day.  Senator Diane Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) was introduced last year but because of a busy legislative calendar it was never passed.   We want Senator Feinstein to continue working as an advocate for the conservation of California's pristine desert lands, so we are urging her office to reintroduce CDPA 2010 this year.

If reintroduced and passed, the bill would create two new national monuments in California's desert, and set aside or expand wilderness areas throughout the Mojave and Sonoran Desert.  The legislation is necessary now more than ever given the threat of rapid energy development, and the decline of the threatened desert tortoise.


Take Action: Send an e-mail (sample below) thanking Senator Feinstein for her support for desert conservation, and req…

Important Week for America's Deserts

Stay tuned this week for a few policy and legal developments that will have an impact on our southwestern deserts, including the Mojave.

1.) Solar Programmatic Draft EIS:  The Department of the Interior is expected to release the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for its program to rapidly site and permit massive solar facilities on public land, mostly in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.  Once the draft EIS is available,  probably by the end of the week, the Department of the Interior will accept public comments.  One of the key components to watch for are the boundaries of its proposed "solar energy zones," where utility-scale energy projects will be encouraged.  The initial "study zones" proposed late last year included ecologically important sites near the Cady Mountains in the Mojave, and throughout the Chuckwalla Valley in the Sonoran Desert.  Projects already approved for these areas by the Federal government and State of California threaten to displa…

Alert: Take Action for CDPA 2010

According to the latest news from Capitol Hill, the current omnibus lands bill (a combination of many proposed conservation bills into one piece of legislation) does not currently include the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (S. 2921), or any wilderness designations in California's deserts.    Senator Feinstein introduced the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) late last year, but it has not yet been reported from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  CDPA 2010 is unlikely to be included in an omnibus lands bill until it has passed from the committee, but time is running out.

Call or e-mail Senator Feinstein's staff to urge them to work to include the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 in the final omnibus bill.  Otherwise, the chances of wilderness protection in California's deserts next year are dim.  CDPA 2010 would set aside over over 1 million acres of pristine desert for conservation, including areas along Historic Route 66, and e…

Glimmer of Hope for the Desert Bill

The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would combine several land and water conservation bills into one package--called an omnibus bill--and putting it up for a vote before Congress concludes business at the end of the year.  Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, S. 2921) could be a part of the omnibus bill.  If CDPA 2010 is not included, or if the omnibus bill never materializes, the proposed National Monuments in California's Mojave and Sonoran deserts may never receive protected status.

As a recap for those not familiar with the bill,  CDPA 2010 would balance conservation of natural areas and preservation of recreation opportunities by establishing:
Mojave Trails National Monument: 941,413 acres of Mojave Desert along Historic Route 66 and the southern boundary of the Mojave National Preserve.  Many of the valleys in this area were proposed for industrial development, and could still be vulnerable to destructive uses if th…

Urge Legislators to Pass Wilderness Protections Now

My last post highlighted two pieces of legislation currently stuck in Congressional committees that could improve conditions in California's deserts.  I previously assessed that the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) was unlikely to see a full vote before the Senate and House before the end of the legislative calendar in November.   However, I just read analysis by Politico--a publication that closely follows trends on the Hill--that suggests a Republican turnover in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee could severely limit opportunities to protect western wilderness over the next few years.

Unfortunately, one of the misguided themes in recent political activism is that concern for the environment and protecting open space is synonymous with "big government" and "socialism".  The political figures that oppose environmental protections ironically boast of their patriotism and faith in God as reasons to allow private interests free …

Ivanpah's Last Summer

For a great write-up by Chris Clarke (and a beautiful photo by Laura Cunningham), visit Coyote Crossing.  Mr. Clarke draws a parallel between the willingness of environmental groups to sell out pristine and threatened desert habitat for the sake of "green energy," and a poor decision by the Sierra Club decades ago when it acquiesced to the Bureau of Reclamation's inundation of Glen Canyon  by constructing a dam there.

While I have written on the California Energy Commission's imposition of mitigation fees on energy companies proposing to build on good quality desert habitat, the damage to the Mojave and Colorado Deserts will ultimately be irreparable.  Every poor decision made by energy companies, and approved by policymakers, will fragment our deserts until what remains is an industrial corridor with small pockets of desert that cannot sustain the rich diversity of life one can encounter in the desert now.  Watching a desert tortoise forage for wildflowers in the mo…

Could CDPA 2010 Hitch a Ride With Another Sensible Renewable Energy Bill?

I keep coming back to the prognosis for the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, or S.2921) because even if I am pessimistic about its chances, I know Washington is an unpredictable arena where one has to keep an eye open for opportunities.  Part of me believes CDPA 2010 is unlikely to be considered by Congress this year.  As I've noted in previous posts, Senator Feinstein's proposed CDPA 2010 is still stuck in the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, and Congress has plenty of business to consider in a relatively short amount of time, meaning that the bill faces an uphill battle.

However, there may be a fleeting window for the Senator's office to establish the two national monuments and host of other off-road recreation and wilderness designations included in CDPA 2010 by including her language in legislation that is more likely to be considered before the full Congress before the end of the year.  It appears that Congress is mu…

Governor Dismisses Mojave Wilderness; CDPA 2010 Left Out of Recent Committee Action

You heard it here already -- the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, or S. 2921) was going to face a lot of hurdles this year, and its chances of making it out of the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources were slim.  However, I found it frustrating to read today that the Senate Committee delivered 18 bills and may deliver another 11 before the Senate recess in August.  CDPA 2010 was not among this list of bills for delivery.  Given the broad support that CDPA 2010 receives from communities, recreation enthusiasts and even energy companies, it was still surprising that CDPA 2010 was not included on the Senate Committee's list of business before August recess.   After Congress resumes business in September, there will not be much time left to conduct legislative business, further reducing the chances that CDPA 2010 will be passed this year.

Meanwhile, the Governor of California mocked the need to protect threatened and endangered species--to include the …

What Next for the California Desert Protection Act?

The mid-May Senate hearing for the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921) was a positive step for the legislation proposed by Senator Feinstein, considering most proposed legislation never makes it beyond the committee.   However, the hearings revealed technical objections from government agencies and some deeper concerns expressed by fellow Senators on the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources.   As noted in a previous post, the legislative calendar and political dynamics outside of California could eclipse the need for near-term sensible land management in the Mojave Desert, and CDPA may not even get the attention it deserves until next year. 

If Senator Feinstein's office can work with the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture to quickly incorporate the technical modifications sought by these agencies during the hearings, the Senator will still face more hurdles before the bill can be put to the full Senate before Congr…

Ranking Member of Senate Committee Guards Energy Companies

Reviewing the transcripts from the 20 May Senate hearing on the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921),  the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource's opening comments struck me as ill-informed, and as knee-jerk opposition that assumes the effort to protect public land is somehow more reckless than the chaotic "gold rush" effort by energy companies to bulldoze pristine Mojave wilderness.  In her comments, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) stated that the proposed legislation would "encumber" renewable energy development and take land off the table before the government had a chance to determine whether or not it would be suitable for renewable energy development.

Murkowski's argument was flawed for a few reasons:
1.) CDPA 2010's proposed national monuments and wilderness areas donot affect the Department of Energy's solar energy study zones, which are the only lands currently being evaluated by the Federa…

Department of Defense and Veteran Speak Out in Favor of Preserving California Desert Wilderness

A San Bernardino Sun opinion piece authored by a veteran that does not want to see his country's natural heritage bulldozed for hastily considered industrial development is included at the bottom of this post.  As I have noted in previous posts, the Mojave Desert has inspired generations of Americans, including the droves of US service members who have trained here.

Ironically, some of the opponents of Senator Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921) claim that efforts to protect desert wilderness from industrial development could also hinder the Department of Defense's ability to adequately prepare our troops.  (for an example, read here)  I think this claim is probably a cheap way to veil some policymaker's attempts to protect energy companies' attempts to develop public lands, rather than preserve DoD's efforts to maintain national security.

You can take a look at the testimony presented by the DoD at the CDPA 2010 hearing b…

Mojave Desert Blog on Pause

I will be on the road until 25 May, but as soon as I'm back I'll see what I can dig into regarding the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) Senate hearing.  Otherwise, no major movement (yet) on the solar applications pending in the Mojave Desert.  Stay tuned...

Webcast May Be Available for CDPA 2010 Hearing; No Witnesses Scheduled Yet

According to the website for the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is conducting a hearing on 20 May to consider Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010 or S.2921), the Committee currently does not have any witnesses lined up to testify for or against the legislation.   Obviously this could change over the next couple of weeks and I'll keep you posted.

It appears that the Committee regularly provides live webcasts--or at least archived webcasts--of its hearings.  Although this means West Coasters will need to wake up at 6:30AM, it will spare you the flight to DC!    Here is the link for the Committee website and you can find the "live webcast" button on the right side of their page at the bottom of the list of options.

For more information about the California Desert Protection Act--which aims to balance conservation of America's desert wilderness, and streamline renewable energy generation--che…

CDPA 2010: Senate Hearing Scheduled to Discuss Desert Conservation

Senator Feinstein's proposed legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of desert wilderness, and streamline renewable energy mitigation procedures--the California Desert Protection Act of 2010--is scheduled to be examined by the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources this month.  This is a crucial first step for the bill, which was introduced in December.  (You can read my previous post on the hurdles that the legislation faces).  The committee could report the bill "favorably" or "unfavorably" to the Senate, at which point the Senate leadership would have to decide if and when to put the legislation up for a full vote.  With such a busy legislative calendar this year, a full vote for CDPA 2010 is not assured.  Also, the committee could fail to report the bill, or debate could begin within the committee on how to alter the legislation before it is reported to the full Senate.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources …

Threatened Vistas

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Among the Mojave Desert treasures at stake as energy companies lay claim to vast tracts of BLM-managed desert wilderness are relatively unspoiled scenic vistas.  The view below was taken at dusk in the protected Mojave National Preserve.  Only a stretch of the lonely Kelbaker Road is visible in the distance and leading off to the west of creosote scrub and lava flows.  The California Desert Protection Act of 2010, introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein, could help preserve more Mojave treasures before they are bulldozed by improperly sited industrial-scale energy development.  In the meantime, it is up to the California Energy Commission (CEC) and science-based surveys of Mojave and Colorado Desert resources to prevent the "solar rush" from trampling irreplaceable wilderness and wildlife.

Can the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 be Passed this Year?

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Following the announcement of Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) in December, civic organizations across California have been seeking support from local city councils and members of Congress in order to pave the way for its introduction into Senate and then House debate.  Senator Feinstein indicated that she would like to see the bill (S.2921) at the Senate for a vote before the end of this year.  So how does it look for CDPA 2010?  Even though several town councils, off-road organizations, and conservation groups have joined to support the intent of the legislation--which would set aside 1.6 million acres for conservation and provide permanent off-road vehicle recreation areas--the legislation's passage may be threatened by political realities in Washington that ignore the local grassroots and civic support building behind the legislation in California.

Probably the biggest trend in American politics that could affect CDPA 2010 w…

Victorville City Council Delays Consideration of CDPA 2010

The Victorville City Council once again considered whether or not to support or oppose Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010).  Once again--for the third time--the Council decided to delay taking a vote on the matter, citing the need for more information.  Several citizens present at the meeting voiced support for the legislation, and one citizen from Victorville opposed the legislation. 

Although ultimately whether or not a city council opposes or supports the bill will not directly impact the legislation, the measure of local support for the legislation will be used to indirectly bolster or erode the legislation's chances when it comes to a vote for committee debate in Washington.  For that reason, if you support the legislation you should contact your local officials and let them know. For the City of Victorville, you can obtain the councilmember's email addresses on their website.