For Immediate Release
Jeff Ruch (202) 265-7337
California Desert Wins New Protection Via Feinstein Amendment
Lion's Share of CDCA Included in Landscape Conservation System by Omnibus Bill
WASHINGTON - The vast majority of the California Desert Conservation
Area will be included within the National Landscape Conservation System if
an Omnibus Public Lands Bill which passed the Senate last month is finally
enacted. An amendment by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) prior to the January
15, 2009 Senate approval addressed the status of the CDCA, but there is bureaucratic
resistance within the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which manages
the vast area, according to documents released today by Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The CDCA covers 10 million acres, approximately one-tenth of the entire California
surface area. Legislation to codify the National Landscape Conservation System
(NLCS), a network of national monuments, historic trails and conservation areas
within the BLM, had been silent about how much of the CDCA would be included.
The Feinstein amendment declares that all CDCA lands administered "for
conservation purposes" will be included within the NLCS.
Current BLM classifications for CDCA indicate that approximately 8 million
acres (80% of the CDCA) are now managed for conservation (either as closed
or limited access areas to protect wildlife and habitat). Another 1.5 millions
acres could be managed for conservation once other uses have ceased - meaning
that up to 95% of the CDCA could ultimately be included, leaving out only the
500,000 acres now used for "intensive" off-road vehicle traffic.
"Senator Feinstein pledged to protect the California desert and she
came through," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that
BLM staff in California had fought for its inclusion within the NLCS but had
been overruled by the agency's Washington headquarters. "We hope
that the new BLM leadership will embrace this opportunity that the departing
leadership appeared to dread."
According to documents received by PEER through a Freedom of Information Act
lawsuit against BLM, "disadvantages" perceived by agency leadership
to including CDCA within the NLCS are that it -
- "Increases public expectations that CDCA will be managed to emphasize
conservation, protection, and restoration";
- "Increases scrutiny of some existing resource uses" and
- "Changes the management of the CDCA..." and increases "the
complexity" of its budget.
"BLM headquarters still does not seem to understand that the reason
the California Desert Conservation Area was created actually had something
to do with conservation," Ruch added. "BLM regarding public expectations
that public land should be protected as a ‘disadvantage' is just
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.