Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a proposed amendment to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), initially approved under the Obama administration in 2016. The DRECP resulted from a decade-long collaborative effort between the State of California, the federal government, local governments, tribes, renewable energy companies, and conservation organizations.
Pamela Flick, California program director with Defenders of Wildlife, subsequently called out the BLM on this proposal, “Releasing this proposed DRECP plan amendment five days before the Inauguration of the next president is the last gasp of the current anti-environment administration. The DRECP has been a nationwide model for clean energy planning on public lands and rolling back the plan now will make it more difficult for President-elect Biden and our nation to meet our clean energy and climate goals.”
The DRECP is a crucial part of California’s effort to transition to clean energy and protect its declining biodiversity. The BLM proposes to significantly weaken the original plan by removing protections for lands, wildlife, and cultural resources.
Flick commented on the impacts of this proposal to the multiple stakeholders in California, “This ill-conceived proposal throws a monkey wrench into the efforts of a diverse group of supporters and will cause a strong backlash from the military, local government, business industries, tribes, conservationists and recreationists. The State of California has already commented that this proposal should be set aside.”
Following are just some examples of areas that will be stripped of their protections or greatly reduced in size under the proposed amendment:
- Lands deemed critical for the continued survival of the threatened Agassiz’s desert tortoise, California’s state reptile;
- Lands within former Wilderness Study Areas;
- Lands within the Surprise Canyon and Amargosa River National Wild and Scenic River segments;
- Pipes Canyon, with its unusual assemblage of giant Joshua trees;
- The life-giving water of Corn Spring and crucial desert bighorn habitat at Cronese Basin;
- Historic areas like the petroglyphs of Black Mountain, the reported only Native American agricultural crop site in the California Desert, and the lands beckoning early immigrants at Alligator Rock; and
- The Golden State’s oldest hard rock gold mine at Salt Creek Hills would be significantly reduced to expand off-road vehicle use.
Regarding the next steps moving forward with the DRECP Flick said, “We look forward to working with the Biden administration to rollback this attack on the DRECP and continue to protect this iconic landscape while working to meet our clean energy goals.”