Press Release Feb 27, 2015

More than 20,000 People Stand Up for Desert Wildlife, National Parks

Comments on DRECP Call for a Cleaner Path towards Renewable Energy Future

Palm Springs, CA – Taking a stand for the stunning California desert and calling for a more thoughtful approach to planning for our renewable energy future, more than 20,000 individuals responded to the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The public comment period on the 22.5 million acre planning guide for the California desert closed on Monday, with individuals and organizations throughout the region and beyond calling for improvements to better protect communities impacted by the plan along with national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife, sensitive landscapes and clear night skies.

“The more than 11,000 National Parks Conservation Association supporters who raised their voices on the DRECP reflects the movement of people who are now seeing the California desert and its national parks as among the wildest, most beautiful, and most important North American landscapes for recreation, and exploration,” said David Lamfrom, California Desert associate director for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “Our concerns reflect opportunities for the Interior Department to improve the DRECP to protect and value the most precious places in the desert. We are more than half-way to the DRECP’s stated renewable energy goal, and the best way forward is to avoid building future projects in high conflict areas and concentrate on locations with existing development footprints or a high degree of disturbance.”

Actions that NPCA and others called on the Department of the Interior to advance as they evaluate and refine the DRECP included:

  • Protecting Mojave National Preserve and adjacent wilderness study areas and important bighorn sheep habitat by relocating the Soda Mountain Solar proposal from immediately next to the national park land to already established renewable energy zones;
  • Protecting Silurian Valley, adjacent to Death Valley National Park, by designating it as National Conservation Lands;
  • Preventing development in the Eagle Mountain region; an important desert tortoise and golden eagle habitat that is surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park;
  • Prohibiting Development Focus Areas (DFA) on sensitive lands for wildlife and wildlife linkages such as the Lucerne region, the desert tortoise research natural area, the Cadiz dunes area, and Mountain Pass near Mojave National Preserve;
  • Reducing the number of acres and megawatts needed to meet DRECP goals by updating calculations to reflect progress and technology;
  • Creating a conservation legacy by ensuring protections are permanent. Such improvements were also echoed in comments made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

“The EPA’s call for revising acreage forecasts to reflect renewable energy that is already being produced in California, along with the need to protect the Amargosa river and Silurian Valley are just a few places where our comments overlap,” said Lamfrom. “It is encouraging to see the EPA take a strong stance on the draft plan; it also reflects the opportunity for the Interior Department to produce a stronger DRECP.”

The DRECP is the product of several years of data collection and public process, and stands to refine and replace the Solar Programmatic plan, adopted in 2012, as the policy governing how and where the California desert develops green energy. The DRECP also discusses opportunities for recreation, protection of access, protection of key species, and shifts the focus of development opportunities towards communities that have called for it.

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.