Fight Back Against Potential Cuts to Mojave Trails National Monument

Although Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's report to the President recommending significant cuts to a "handful" of national monuments remains secret, many people that appreciate desert wildlands are concerned that Mojave Trails National Monument is on the list.  That is because Congressman Paul Cook encouraged Zinke in June to remove protections from swaths of Mojave Trails  to accommodate the Cadiz company's plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year and sell it to an Orange County water district.  The Cadiz company owns a parcel of private land surrounded by the monument.  The proposal to cut the monument would open up a pathway for the company to build a pipeline to transport the water out of the desert; a plan hydrologists are concerned could dry up natural springs across a large portion of the Mojave.
If you are a California resident, please take a stand against this potential cut to Mojave Trails and follow this link to urge your state representatives to…

Paul Cook Twists History in Attack on Desert Monuments

Representative Paul Cook published an opinion piece in the Desert Dispatch this week defending his recent request to slash monuments in the California desert.  His opinion piece is one of the first public  communications from his office r Harding President Trump's and Secretary of Interior's review of national monuments.  Up until now, Cook has only had private meetings and correspondence with select companies and the Secretary of Interior detailing his plan to cut the monuments down.  We only know about that because someone submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to force the Department of Interior to release Cook's correspondence.

Cook's letter ignores the years of public stakeholder conversation regarding management of our desert public lands, portraying the monuments as midnight decisions that came "out of thin air."  Cook's letter disingenuously characterizes the monuments as the result of "extreme environmental groups" and &q…

Documents Show Destructive Industry Influencing Monument Review

President Trump and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke have arbitrarily selected 27 of our national monuments for review, and Zinke is expected to issue recommendations later this week on whether to reduce or eliminate some of the monuments as if they are contestants in some corrupt beauty pageant.  Zinke has already deemed six as worth protecting, citing reasons that could apply to all 27.  The other 21 face an uncertain future, probably driven largely by industry's desire to access and destroy more of our public lands for profit. 

Removing protections from these national monuments likely will spark a legal battle that will determine the future of vast swaths of public lands.  At issue is a simple question: is any President allowed to reduce or eliminate a national monument established by a previous President? If the answer is yes, we undo our promise of sharing millions of acres of protected wildlands with future generations.  Eagerly urging the administration's review of the…

Speak Up for Our Monuments

The Department of Interior is soliciting public comments on our national monuments as it considers potential steps to revoke or undermine protections for these natural treasures.  All you have to do is visit the website here and express your support for the monuments under review, ranging from Mojave Trails to Bears Ears.  You can write a sentence, or you can attach a document with more detailed comments.  Any comment helps!

Here is what I submitted:

Dear Secretary Zinke:
I am an outdoor enthusiast and father of a one-year-old daughter who I hope will have the same opportunities that I and our ancestors have had to enjoy the natural beauty of America. I am writing in support of our national monuments; each of the monuments currently under review should be protected for future generations to enjoy.I believe that the public statements made by President Trump in support of altering monuments at the signing of Executive Order 13792 establishes a presumption that certain monu…

Can We Transition to Renewable Energy Without Destroying More Desert?

Earlier this week I wrote about the renewable energy industry's complaints that desert conservation was slowing the deployment of utility-scale solar and wind projects.  The newspaper article that gave these industry complaints a soapbox described renewable energy development on public lands as "slowed to a crawl."  New projects proposals may have slowed down for economic reasons that were buried in the article, but public and private lands in our deserts have been significantly transformed over the past few years.

Industry lobbyists want us to assume that we cannot reach our goal of 100% renewable energy without destroying intact desert wildlands.  Over the past few years we learned why this cannot be allowed, and why it is not true: 1.) Building large-scale wind and solar on wildlands comes at a great ecological cost.  2.)  Renewable energy technology is flexible, and we can find places to capture energy from the wind and sun without destroying wildlands.

Renewable En…

Desert Sun Article Blames Conservation for Lull in Energy Development

A Desert Sun article erroneously suggests that the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is to blame for a lull in new utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands in the California desert.  The more significant reason - economics - is buried in the piece, while the rest of the article gives the (industry-favored) impression that something has to give - either we sacrifice even more of the desert or we're left with no solution to climate change. 

The timing of the article couldn't be better for the industry.  Californians are eager to prove the Trump administration wrong and increase renewable energy generation, while the Trump administration is eager to please industry and roll back protections for public lands.  But the article pushes an inaccurate premise that rolling back conservation designations in the desert is going to be necessary to meet a more aggressive renewable energy target in California.

The problems with the article start with a t…

The Future of Our Public Lands in a Photo Contest

The Department of Interior, after announcing plans to review and potentially scale back protections for public lands, just re-posted the 2016 winner of its "Share the Experience" photo contest in the category of "scenic landscape."  It is indeed a beautiful photo of Fantasy Canyon on public lands in Utah.  But I have to wonder if the Secretary of Interior is sending a signal about the future of scenic landscapes by sending this around on social media today.  Had the photographer zoomed out much more, they would have revealed a landscape that not many of us consider scenic.

Fantasy Canyon is a small parcel - about ten acres - of land surrounded by dozens of square miles of oil drilling rigs and mining.