FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Monday, December 21, 2009
Senator Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Balance Conservation, Recreation and Renewable Energy Development in the Mojave Desert
-Measure would designate new desert conservation lands; streamline and improve permitting process for large-scale wind and solar development on suitable desert lands; and enhance recreational opportunities-
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the author of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, today introduced a comprehensive bill to designate new lands in the Mojave Desert for conservation, enhance recreational opportunities, and streamline and improve the federal permitting process to advance large-scale wind and solar development on suitable lands. The carefully crafted legislation, titled the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, is the product of discussions with key stakeholders in Southern California.
The bill builds upon the legacy of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act – sponsored by Senator Feinstein – which protected more than 7 million acres of pristine desert in Southern California, and established Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.
“I strongly believe that conservation, renewable energy development and recreation can and must co-exist in the California Desert,” Senator Feinstein said. “This legislation strikes a careful balance between these sometimes competing concerns.”
“Earlier this year, I learned that Bureau of Land Management had accepted numerous applications to build vast solar and wind energy projects on former railroad lands previously owned by the Catellus Corporation that had been donated to the federal government or acquired with taxpayer funds for conservation.
I believe the development of these new cleaner energy sources is vital to addressing climate change, yet we must be careful about selecting where these facilities are located.
Approximately $45 million of private donations, including a $5 million land discount from Catellus, and $18 million in federal Land and Water Conservation funds were spent to purchase these lands, with the intent of conserving them in perpetuity.
We have an obligation to honor our commitment to conserve these lands – and I believe we can still accomplish that goal while also fulfilling California’s commitment to develop a clean energy portfolio. There are many places in the California desert where development and employment are essential and appropriate. But there are also places that future generations will thank us for setting aside.
Over the course of the past year, we have worked painstakingly to ensure that this legislation balances the needs of all stakeholders. This bill, if enacted, will have a positive and enduring impact on the landscape of the Southern California desert, and I hope it will stand as a model for how to balance renewable energy development and conservation. I would urge my colleagues in the Senate and the House to support this legislation, so that we can get it enacted as quickly as possible.”
As of today, the legislation has the support of:
The California Wilderness Coalition
The Wildlands Conservancy
The Wilderness Society
The National Parks Conservation Association
Friends of the River
Campaign for America's Wilderness
Edison International (parent company of Southern California Edison)
Friends of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
Friends of the Desert Mountains
Mojave Desert Land Trust
Desert Protective Council
Death Valley Conservancy
Cities of Barstow, Desert Hot Springs, Hesperia, Indio, Palm Springs, San Bernardino and Yucaipa
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley
San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry
Imperial County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber
Coachella Valley Association of Governments
Route 66 Preservation Foundation
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