Press Release Nov 10, 2015

Desert Landscape Plan Fails to Fully Protect Desert National Parks

NPCA finds only one of the three issues of particular concern to desert national parks is satisfactorily addressed

Palm Springs, CA – Today, the U.S. Department of Interior released the final Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, (DRECP) which covers 22.5 million acres in seven counties across the California desert. National Parks Conservation Association found only one of the three issues of particular concern to the desert national parks is satisfactorily addressed in the final plan.

“With today’s release of the final Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, (DRECP) the Department of Interior has taken some important steps in protecting desert ecosystems while promoting the smarter growth of renewable energy,” said David Lamfrom, Director of California Desert and Wildlife Program for National Parks Conservation Association. “Unfortunately, Interior also missed some critical opportunities to keep incompatible and damaging development away from our national parks and fragile desert landscapes.”

The goal of the DRECP is to strike a thoughtful balance between protection and conservation of desert ecosystems and wildlife and the timely development of compatible renewable energy projects.

Issue 1: Designate the Silurian Valley adjacent to Death Valley National Park as National Conservation Lands

Keeping in line with the agency’s stated goals, upon initial review, it appears that the final DRECP will designate the Silurian Valley, just outside of Death Valley National Park, as off limits to wind and solar proposals.

“Silurian Valley is exactly the type of place Americans had in mind for protection when we created National Conservation Lands,” said Lamfrom. “The Bureau of Land Management rejected the Silurian Valley Solar proposal earlier this year, but a wind application was remaining. This designation should prevent the wind proposal from advancing and ensure the rightful protection of this desert region from energy development.”

Issue 2: Protect wilderness study areas and important bighorn sheep habitat next to Mojave National Preserve by relocating the Soda Mountain solar proposal

“Sadly, Soda Mountain solar, arguably the most controversial and ill-advised proposal in the California desert, continues to remain on the table for consideration by the Bureau of Land Management in the final plan,” said Lamfrom. “Despite incredible opposition and lack of a buyer for the project’s electricity, this proposal continues to move towards approval. In order to truly demonstrate that it is willing to take appropriate action to protect desert ecosystems, desert national parks, and sensitive wildlife, the Administration must reject the Soda Mountain development.”

For the severe threats that Soda Mountain poses to Mojave National Preserve, the park was selected as one of nine #ParksInPeril that National Parks Conservation Association is urging the Obama administration to protect from imminent harm. By preventing the Soda Mountain solar project from proceeding, the administration can help secure the long-term ecological health of Mojave National Preserve.

Issue 3: Prevent development in the Eagle Mountain region, surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park

“Similarly to Soda Mountain, the Eagle Crest pumped storage proposal in the Eagle Mountain region just outside Joshua Tree remains under consideration by the Bureau of Land Management,” said Lamfrom. “However, we do appreciate that boundary protections along other sides of Joshua Tree National park were strengthened.”

“In the end, the final plan advances renewable energy and some important protections for desert ecosystems but does not remove real and immediate threats to desert national parks that could forever change the lands the plan seeks to steward.”

Click here to view the full Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

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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.