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© Jason Mohap

Mojave

What Defenders is Doing in Mojave

Defenders in Action

In planning for on-the-ground conservation efforts benefitting imperiled wildlife, Defenders works closely with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, California Energy Commission, state wildlife agencies, military officials, environmental organizations, scientists and local governments. Relative to renewable energy development in the Mojave Desert, we have participated in Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) efforts, encourage “smart from the start” renewable energy siting, evaluate and comment on new proposals, as well as coordinate closely with BLM to ensure appropriate plan implementation.

We are also closely involved with recovery implementation planning for several wildlife species listed under the federal and California Endangered Species Acts, including the threatened Agassiz’s desert tortoise. Additionally, we are working with several county planning departments in the hopes of developing long-term regional conservation plans benefitting at-risk wildlife and natural plant community conservation on both public and private lands.

Defenders is also working with other environmental organizations to amend California’s Off-highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division’s guidelines for recreational vehicle use and user-generated grant allocation to address related impacts throughout the Mojave Desert. We have maintained a strong voice in the off-road vehicle and travel management planning conducted by the BLM over the past two decades. Defenders intends to continue its advocacy for wildlife protection relative to appropriate recreational use throughout the California Desert Conservation Area, and particularly in its defense of the recently designated Mojave Trails National Monument.  

Success Stories

Defenders closely monitors and provides comments in virtually all renewable energy projects proposed for siting within the Mojave Desert. Formal protests have been submitted on two specific solar projects and Defenders regularly attends hearings and enters into settlement discussions to minimize the negative impacts on wildlife habitat. In one settlement instance, a renewable energy project developer agreed to fund the acquisition and protection of thousands of acres of critical Agassiz’s desert tortoise habitat in the Chuckwalla Valley, California.

For nearly two years, Defenders followed developments with increasing concern regarding the siting of the utility-scale Calico Solar Project. Comments from Defenders and several other environmental protection groups warned of potential project impacts to Mojave Desert wildlife and faulted the BLM for analyzing only one option in considering the proposal. Defenders subsequently offered several recommendations, including one to relocate the project to an environmentally acceptable site. Following a review of assembled environmental information and anticipated project impacts, the Calico Solar Project was canceled.