In my 30 years in public service, one of the most challenging and most rewarding activities was participating in the years-long collaborative effort that resulted in the historic Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The State Lands Commission, which I chair, took part in conversations at hundreds of public meetings about how to balance protection of treasured desert landscapes with the development of renewable energy.

Tens of thousands of individuals and organizations came to the table during this multi-year collaborative process, all working tirelessly to achieve consensus and a balanced approach. This diverse range of stakeholders included state and federal agencies like the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as countless local governments, renewable energy companies, businesses, conservation groups, and concerned citizens. The collaboration yielded more than 16,000 public comments about how best to manage our fragile California desert, and the values it provides to our economy and quality of life.

Together, we crafted a plan to help meet California’s ambitious renewable energy goals, while still safeguarding precious desert landscapes. But today, this visionary plan is at risk. Despite widespread support across an incredibly broad group of interests, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recently announced that the Administration would reopen DRECP to further changes.

This review is ill-advised and unnecessary because the plan does what it was supposed to do. Our Energy Commission has stated that the proposal allocates sufficient land to “support meeting our renewable energy goals.” There is just no new information that justifies amending the approved plan.

The plan designated uses for more than 10 million acres of the desert, mapping out which lands are best suited for renewable energy development and which are more appropriate for conservation. In designing the proposal, stakeholders considered Native American culture, recreation, and historic values as they carefully incorporated activities such as grazing and mining.

The uncertainty caused by potential changes to the plan can adversely affect investment in the state since it will delay the development of much-needed renewable energy facilities. Reopening the DRECP not only wastes time and resources, but it will stall ongoing renewable energy projects and result in significant costs. No one benefits from this. This is the time we need to be moving forward, not revisiting a blueprint that has an unprecedented level of support and agreement.

California is rightly seen as a leader in the quest for a renewable energy future. It’s something we owe to future generations to ensure they have the power to meet their needs. But we also owe our children and grandchildren the ability to explore and enjoy the beauty and wonder of our public lands. Places like Silurian Valley, with its Paiute settlement remnants, desert springs, and bighorn sheep; and Chuckwalla Bench, which boasts the state’s largest cactus, are natural treasures that should remain untouched.

A future that allows for both of these possibilities was the promise made by the DRECP. It’s critical that we uphold that commitment by keeping the DRECP intact, and safeguard the desert’s treasures for all who come after us.

Betty T. Yee is California State Controller and Chair of the State Lands Commission.

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Our nation’s public lands are a defining feature of the American West, offering myriad opportunities to explore the great outdoors. While millions of us flock to parks, campgrounds, and recreation areas every year, many of our public lands are also available for other uses such as cattle grazing, mining, and oil drilling. This “multiple use” mandate for areas managed either by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management provides both challenges and opportunities for balancing the nation’s priorities.

One challenge is finding a way for development activities to coexist with conservation efforts — which is complicated by a growing demand for large renewable energy projects on public lands, such as solar or wind farms that can dominate thousands of acres. Solutions require robust public input and a thoughtful approach that weighs renewable energy development with watershed protection, wildlife conservation, and recreation.

In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management finalized a historic plan in California that sought to strike a balance among renewable energy development, conservation and recreation, creating a blueprint that the agency hoped to replicate elsewhere. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) took eight years to develop, was built on more than 16,000 public comments and dozens of open meetings, and is widely heralded in California as a success.

The state supported the desert plan’s contribution to its goal of producing at least 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2026, while many desert residents backed the plan because it minimized the impact of future development and protected key wildlife and open space as “California Desert Conservation Lands.” Places such as the Silurian Valley, just south of Death Valley in the Mojave Desert; Chuckwalla Bench, which stretches from Joshua Tree National Park to the Colorado River; and Mayan Peak, home to a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, are protected under DRECP. Conserving these places and others as part of the plan provides sanctuary for imperiled desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife.

Fast forward to this year, when, at the beginning of February — as the DRECP was in its early phases of implementation — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the Bureau of Land Management will reopen the plan for comments. The move, which could result in significant changes, sent shock waves through the desert and across California. The secretary said the reassessment was needed because the plan did not allow enough renewable energy development, but California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird responded that “reopening the plan is a waste of time and resources that will result in uncertainty, delay and litigation.” The California State Lands Commission passed a resolution opposing the move, saying it could “cause significant confusion, delays, and economic detriment to the State of California in its efforts to site needed renewable facilities.”

It is disappointing that the DRECP, which was developed over years and with strong public support from diverse stakeholder groups, is being reconsidered. Rather than looking to fix something that isn’t broken, the Department of the Interior should continue to collaborate closely with the state of California on the plan’s implementation to maintain its science-based and balanced solutions.

Ken Rait is the director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ western lands initiative.

View the original article online at The Daily Caller.