Washington—The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today advanced the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) bill to update and expand protections for the California desert. Similar legislation has been offered by Congressman Paul Cook (R-Calif.) in the House.
“This bill will finish a process we started in 1994 when we passed the first California Desert Protection Act that protected 7 million acres of desert and created two national parks,” said Senator Feinstein. “After President Obama designated three new national monuments in the desert in 2016, I promised off-roaders and environmental groups that we’d complete the effort to better manage the desert. This beautiful land is alive with rare flora and fauna like the desert tortoise and Joshua tree, as well as numerous recreation opportunities, and I’m committed to ensuring it’s available for generations to come.
“In addition to designating 230,000 acres of wilderness, protecting 76 miles of wild and free-flowing streams and rivers and adding 43,000 to our national parks, the bill also includes permanent protection for five off-highway recreation areas covering 142,000 acres. Thanks to the committee’s vote today, we’re one step closer to fulfilling our promise. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important bill before the end of the year.”
The bill builds upon the legacy of the California Desert Protection Act, Senator Feinstein’s landmark legislation that was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. That bill established Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and protected more than 7.6 million acres of California desert wilderness. In 2016, Senator Feinstein requested President Obama to expand protections for the desert by creating the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains national monuments.
This bill would finish the long-standing efforts started in 1994 to restore and protect the desert and its surrounding communities. It is the result of years of engagement with a range of stakeholders including local and state government officials, environmental groups, off-highway recreation enthusiasts, cattle ranchers, mining interests, the Department of Defense, wind and solar energy companies and California’s public utility companies.
Key provisions of the legislation:
- Wilderness protections: Designate five new Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas covering 230,000 acres.
- Permanent OHV areas: Permanently designates five existing Off-Highway Vehicle recreational areas (covering approximately 142,000 acres of California desert), ensuring off-highway enthusiasts will have continued access to those areas to enjoy trail riding.
- Scenic areas: Designate 18,610 acres of BLM land in Inyo County as the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, preserving it for continued recreational use.
- Wild and Scenic Rivers: Designate 76 miles of waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
- National Park land: Add 39,000 acres to Death Valley National Park and 4,500 acres to Joshua Tree National Park.