U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation and Renewable Energy Act last week. It’s a revised version of desert legislation that was introduced last year.
The new bill includes provisions from S. 414, introduced in February 2015, that would create five off-road vehicle areas, designate 230,000 acres as wilderness areas, add 43,000 acres to Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, designate 77 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and clarify how desert land can be used for renewable energy development.
These provisions drawn from S. 414 are not part of President Obama’s designation of three new national monuments earlier this month. Those monuments—Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains—total more than 1.8 million acres of California desert.
Feinstein released the following statement:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
“President Obama’s decision to create three national monuments in the Mojave Desert was the right call, but unfortunately his authority under the Antiquities Act didn’t allow him to include the many other valuable provisions in the original legislation. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to make those provisions a reality.
“This legislation includes all of the carefully negotiated provisions from the bill I introduced last year, minus the three monuments. This bill remains bipartisan and charts a commonsense path forward for the California desert.
“Of note, the legislation includes permanent protection for five Off-Highway Recreation Areas covering 142,000 acres. I’ve worked with off-roaders for years because I believe their use of the land should be protected just as it is for conservation purposes. I gave them my word that I’d fight for them and I intend to do so.
“My preference has always been to balance the many uses of the desert through legislation, and I won’t give up on that effort. We will continue to fight for additional wilderness areas, to protect clean and free-flowing rivers and creeks and to provide certainty to off-roaders and recreational enthusiasts of all stripes.”
The revised bill is the product of years of engagement with a range of stakeholders including environmental groups, local and state government officials, off-highway recreation enthusiasts, cattle ranchers, mining interests, the Department of Defense, wind and solar energy companies, California’s public utility companies and many others.
The bill’s key provisions:
* Designate five new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wilderness areas covering 230,000 acres.
* Designate 18,610 acres of BLM land in Inyo County as the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, preserving it for continued recreational use.
* Designate 77 miles of waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
* Add acreage to Death Valley National Park (39,000 acres) and Joshua Tree National Park (4,500 acres).
* Designate five existing BLM Off-Highway Vehicle areas (covering approximately 142,000 acres of California desert) as permanent Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation areas, providing off-highway enthusiasts certainty that these uses of the desert will be protected in a manner similar to conservation areas.
* Provide a balanced approach to renewable energy development through several provisions. For example, the bill:
– encourages the development of new renewable energy in solar zones established by the federal government, thereby avoiding conflicts over lands long intended for conservation;
– requires the exchange of hundreds of thousands of acres of isolated state parcels currently surrounded by national parks and wilderness, providing the state with lands that could be used for renewable energy, recreation or conservation; and
– allows for upgrades to transmission lines necessary to bring clean energy from new desert solar and wind farms to urban areas, while still protecting pristine landscapes.