Twenty-five years ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein authored the California Desert Protection Act, a landmark step toward the conservation of public lands.
Conservation groups all across the California desert are celebrating 25 years of protection for the thousands of rare plant species, diverse desert wildlife and unique geological formations that find a home in the desert public lands.
The CDPA created the Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks, the Mojave National Preserve and 69 other wilderness areas. Joshua Tree National Park, characterized by rugged rock formations and breathtaking night skies, now spans over 800,000 acres and three of California’s ecosystems: the Colorado Desert, the Mojave Desert and the San Bernardino Mountains.
Protection Act praised
“The California Desert has thrived in the 25 years since the California Desert Protection Act was signed into law,” said Frazier Haney, deputy director at The Wildlands Conservancy.
“We’ve enjoyed a new economy built on tourism and recreation, wildlife is thriving, and residents and visitors can find stillness in the wide-open expanses, all just hours from huge metropolitan areas.”
These protected lands draw millions of visitors from all over the world each year and help support the economy in the Morongo Basin.
The California Desert Protection Act was also the catalyst for further conservation measures. Today, the California desert is home to three national parks, four national monuments and millions of acres of public lands.
“We must protect this legacy now more than ever,” Haney said.
Today, the park continues to expand with partners like the Mojave Desert Land Trust purchasing lands to be managed by the national park.
The nonprofit, headquartered in Joshua Tree, focuses on parcels within national parks and preserves, wilderness areas, areas of critical environmental concern and wildlife linkage corridors.
“We have successfully conserved land in Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Trails National Monument and Death Valley National Park,” said MDLT Director of Communications Jessica Dacey.
Dacey said with changing conservation challenges, the land trust is working to connect conservation areas to provide pathways for wildlife.
One project that the MDLT is working on is a bridge or tunnel across Twentynine Palms Highway for wildlife to cross.
“We’re still in the very early works of this project but we’re speaking to stakeholders,” Dacey said.
Dacey and the MDLT joined in on the celebration for the California Desert Protection Act anniversary this week by leading aerial tours of the Morongo Basin and surrounding areas with EcoFlight, a nonprofit that educates and advocates for the protection of wildlands and wildlife habitat using small aircraft.
Bruce Gordon, president of Eco Flight, said on one of these tours that the flights give people a new perspective on public lands — showing their beauty and also showing how close threats like gas and oil drilling are to the lands.
“The view is life-changing,” he said.
The celebration of the California Desert Protection Act is expected to continue in the weeks ahead. Visit https://desertlands.org/lands/25years to learn more and get information about upcoming events.