Center for Biological Diversity

Support a New National Monument in California

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Senator Dianne Feinstein has boldly supported creating a new national monument in the California desert that would connect Joshua Tree National Park with the Mojave National Preserve, protecting some of the most pristine, ecologically important, and beautiful desert in the world. 

Much of the proposed monument consists of lands donated to the federal government by The Wildlands Conservancy with the understanding that the lands would be permanently protected. The new monument would uphold the government's original promise to protect these lands and affirm the principle that lands donated for conservation must truly be conserved.

Unfortunately, the Interior Department is currently considering allowing industrial-scale energy development on many of these lands. Some energy companies and their investors are opposing the proposed monument, arguing that it will interfere with meeting our renewable-energy goals. While a rapid transition to renewable energy is essential to address global warming, we must not destroy pristine public lands and endangered species habitat in the rush. Hundreds of thousands of acres of already-degraded lands are available outside the proposed monument that are far better suited for energy development.

In a positive move in the much-contested debate about solar energy projects in the proposed monument, BrightSource Energy, Inc. -- one of the companies involved -- just canceled its plans to develop a 5,000 acre solar thermal facility in a remote wildland area of the Mojave Desert. The Center for Biological Diversity applauds this wise decision and calls on other companies contemplating similar projects in the proposed monument to cancel them immediately. Passage of Senator Feinstein's proposed monument bill will ensure that threats to our lands from the remaining projects are kept at bay.

Please take a moment now to let Senator Feinstein know that you strongly support her proposed monument.

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Mojave desert photo by Joseph Dougherty, BLM.

The public lands of California’s deserts represent one of the largest blocks of relatively intact natural habitat in United States. Home to a diverse array of species, including the threatened desert tortoise and numerous rare plants, parts of this desert are protected in national parks, preserves, and wilderness areas, but large areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management remain at risk.

One of the biggest emerging threats to the California desert is the growing number of proposed poorly sited, industrial-scale renewable-energy developments. Because a single project can result in more than six square miles of pristine habitat being scraped clean of life, it is critical that all such projects be properly sited. More than 70 applications for solar projects scattered throughout the California desert have been submitted to the Bureau of Land Management.

These projects, collectively, could convert upward of a half-million acres of natural habitat into lifeless industrial zones.

To better address the issue of where to put solar-energy projects on public lands in the western U.S., the Department of the Interior has begun a programmatic environmental review process with the aim of designating solar-energy zones where solar facilities could be clustered and built with fewer environmental impacts. Interior's initial proposal identifies more than 600,000 acres in six states where solar projects might be appropriate. The Center for Biological Diversity has also prepared a map and analysis of areas potentially suitable for solar energy siting and identified 200,000 acres of degraded private and public lands in the California desert where such projects could occur with minimal environmental impact.

One of the most sensitive, currently unprotected areas of the California desert is the swath of land between Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. This area is outside both the Department of the Interior's and the Center's proposed solar zones, but nevertheless, several energy companies are seeking to build large projects in the heart of the region.

This area is also the location of the largest nonprofit land acquisition donation in U.S. history. A decade ago, The Wildlands Conservancy spent tens of millions of dollars to acquire more than 500,000 acres of lands in the California desert, and then donated those lands to the Department of the Interior. At the time, President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and the Bureau of Land Management director all pledged that the land would be conserved. Senator Feinstein's proposed monument would fulfill these promises and protect these important lands in perpetuity.

The Center for Biological Diversity is dedicated to ensuring that atmospheric CO2 levels are reduced to below 350 ppm, which leading climate scientists warn is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. Energy conservation and a rapid transition to renewable energy are necessary to bring about the required CO2