The Trump administration is poised to gut protections gained in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan for millions of acres of California desert recreation and conservation lands to expand access for industrial energy projects, mining and off-highway vehicle recreation. We’ve worked too hard, too long and spoken too clearly to allow the Department of Interior to roll back conservation protections. It is critical that we stand firm to demonstrate our commitment for hard-won protections!

The Bureau of Land Management is hosting a scoping meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Joshua Tree Community Center. A strong turnout will be a powerful demonstration to the administration of our opposition to amending the DRECP. Our community wants more, not less, public land protected from development. There should be no further changes to the allocations of conservation, recreational or renewable energy designations in this comprehensive plan.

Local residents see the degradation of the Basin’s air quality from existing solar developments. When the desert crust is scraped and vegetation removed, the winds blow dust along sand transport paths. The effects are permanent and cannot be mitigated. Rural residential areas need protection to ensure quality of life. Expanding the development focus areas adjacent to communities and along the STPs endangers public health and is contrary to the expressed interests of San Bernardino desert residents.

During the eight-year process of developing the DRECP, stakeholders labored to determine the future of renewable energy development in the California desert. The current administration now claims that reopening the DRECP is pro-environment, claiming that opening up more lands is needed for wind and solar if California is to meet its goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. However, the state energy commission has stated there is sufficient land in the plan to support meeting that goal.

The DRECP resulted in a compromised balance of interests and largely embraced as workable. The Trump administration’s real goal is to reduce land set aside for conservation and to reverse the Obama legacy.

The BLM will present information at the scoping meeting, but will not be accepting oral comments from the public. However, after the public meeting, a number of organizations will be hosting a panel discussion to answer questions, help you develop your comments, and provide an opportunity to give oral testimony.

We can’t let our guard down with the fragile, irreplaceable Mojave at stake. We must keep up our vigil. The Department of Interior is posing a true threat to the health of our communities and to the desert landscapes and ecosystems where we live and thrive.

Whether or not you can make the meeting, it is critical to send comments to the BLM by the March 22 deadline, to: BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825, or electronically: If you cannot make tonight’s scoping meeting in Joshua Tree, consider attending from 5 to 7 p.m. March 7 at the UC Riverside Palm Desert Center auditorium, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92211.

Sarah Kennington is the president of the Morongo Basin 
Conservation Association.

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