Posts

Showing posts with the label CDPA 2011

Opposition to Monuments Based on Misinformation

Image
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…

Cook's Desert Bill is a Political Ransom Note

Image
A new bill introduced by Congressman Paul Cook would encourage the destruction of over 246 square miles of desert wildlands in exchange for widely supported conservation designations.  The bill - the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act - panders to harmful, for-profit uses of public lands, including in the heart of the Mojave Desert along Historic Route 66.

The bill appears to be an effort to counter the desert conservation and recreation legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein, who decided earlier this year to seek establishment of desert monuments through the Antiquities Act because of roadblocks in Congress.  Contrary to misinformation I have seen spread online, the monuments would not "restrict access" for people that enjoy and explore desert wildlands.  I say this as a person that uses designated routes to access remote areas of the desert for camping, hiking and photography.  Unlike the monument proposals, Cook's bill would promote th…

Senator Feinstein Reintroduces and Expands Desert Bill

Senator Feinstein this week introduced a revised version of her desert bill that would protect beautiful and remote stretches of the California desert while also setting the stage for significant land exchanges intended to allow for industrial development elsewhere in the state.  The bill would create two new national monuments, designate six new wilderness areas, and add acreage to existing national parks.   The new conservation areas would provide welcomed protection for over a million acres of desert wildlands that industry is eyeing for development.  However, the bill will also leave open the potential that new transmission lines will bisect the new monuments, and requires the Department of Interior to transfer nearly 370,000 acres of public lands elsewhere in California in exchange for parcels of land owned by the State of California that currently fall within the boundaries of desert wilderness, monuments and parks.

The bill is a reincarnation of the California Desert Protectio…

Celebrating the Desert Protection Act

Image
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…

Desert Conservation Languishes As Industrial Uses Expand

Image
As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to facilitate the march of industry into relatively remote corners of America's desert wildlands, efforts to set aside these natural treasures are slow going as Congress has been jammed up by partisan squabbling, and the President has been shy about using his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate monuments.   Waiting for conservation by executive or legislative action may seem worthwhile when you consider that those protections will be more permanent, but what seems to be most lacking in our deserts is proactive conservation through the land management process administered by the BLM; other than islands of critical habitat designated for some endangered species, land use management plans seem to do little to prevent industrial-scale development on land considered to hold important wildlife, scenic and recreation values.

New Mexico Gets a Monument, and May Get A Second This Year

Despite the President's overall reluctanc…

BrightSource Energy Challenges Military Training Mission

Image
The Department of Defense has expressed concern that BrightSource Energy's solar "power tower" technology could obstruct military testing and training activities in the Mojave Desert, since the heated towers standing hundreds of feet over the desert could become an attractive target for heat seeking sensors and weapons.  Two BrightSource Energy projects in particular are proposed for desert habitat bordering the US Marine Corps' base at Twentynine Palms, where air and ground live fire exercises are conducted.

The Siberia Solar project would be built just north of the Marine base, but within view of an active training ground.  The project would also be adjacent to the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument, a conservation effort to protect desert landscapes and wildlife along the historic Route 66.  The Department of the Interior has shown a propensity to permit energy projects despite environmental concerns in its "fast track" permitting process, but it i…

Desert Conservation Proposal Languishes in Washington

Image
A gridlocked Congress has sat on top of a proposal to conserve desert wildlands for two years now, and it appears that the only hope for Senator Feinstein's California Desert Protetion Act of 2011 (S. 138 - originally introduced in 2010) may be a Presidential designation under the Antiquities Act.   Although a Presidential monument designation is sure to draw fire from opponents, the Antiquities Act of 1906 has been used by Republicans and Democrats alike to protect natural treasures and Congress' indecision over land stewardship is unlikely to be resolved soon.

Public lands are caught in a political spectrum that has trended toward destruction and away from conservation, with Utah Governor Herbert looking to seize treasured public lands and dole them out to private companies, and a Presidential candidate that wants to ramp up fossil fuel extraction in every corner of the country.

The Obama Administration's mark on desert wildlands so far has been regrettable  with a d…

Solar Company Targets Proposed Desert Monument for Industrial Development

Image
BrightSource Energy is considering another solar thermal facility in the Mojave Desert that, if approved, would fall within or immediately adjacent to the boundaries of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument.  The Monument was introduced in the California Desert Protection Act of 2011, and endorsed by the Obama Administration as lands deserving protection.  The project would be built on ecologically important desert habitat within view of the iconic Amboy Crater and Historic Route 66, and impact lands conserved and donated to the Department of Interior by the Wildlands Conservancy.
According to an interview with the Press-Enterprise, BrightSource Energy has already entered into talks with a utility company that would buy the electricity if the project is built.  The Bureau of Land Management, however, has not begun the environmental review process for the solar project, and as of late 2011 was under the impression that the project would be withdrawn.

BrightSource Energy's rig…

Update on the California Desert Protection Act of 2011

With over 1,000 square miles of destructive renewable energy projects proposed for public lands in California -- mostly in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts -- the California Desert Protection Act of 2011 (CDPA 2011, S.138) appears to be the most extensive proposal to spare desert lands from the prospect of unnecessary industrial development.   Senator Dianne Feinstein actually first proposed the legislation in 2010, but Congress was mired in protracted debate on other issues that year, including health care legislation and last minute deals to put in place a stop-gap budget deal.  Feinstein reintroduced CDPA in January this year, but we are days away from the end of another legislative calendar and the bill still has not moved beyond the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Congress is still deadlocked on spending issues.

For perspective, it took two years for Feinstein to get her last desert protection bill passed, which was signed in October 1994, and that was with …

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 …