The Alliance for Desert Preservation has announced a campaign to secure National Conservation Land status for Juniper Flats, a 100,000-acre area managed by the Bureau of Land Management, stretching along High Desert ridgelines from Lucerne Valley to Apple Valley, California.
The recently released draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) proposes to designate a substantial portion of Juniper Flats as an Area of Environmental Concern (ACEC) under the plan’s preferred alternative.
“Juniper Flats is an extraordinarily beautiful, fragile, and ecologically abundant landscape,” said Rich Ravana, president of the Alliance for Desert Preservation. “The DRECP agencies now recognize this. But big energy companies are proven experts in doing end-runs around BLM labels like ACEC. The way to stop them dead in their tracks is to grant National Conservation Land status.”
Juniper Flats was recently targeted for an industrial wind development called the North Peak Wind Project that would have placed 71 giant wind turbines, each 500 feet tall, on Juniper Flats ridgelines. Only outspoken public opposition forced it to back down. National Conservation Land status would prevent any such catastrophic development on the land. It would keep Juniper Flats the way it is—a place of majestic beauty, solitude and wide open spaces, open to a wide varieties of uses by us, the public.
The Alliance for Desert Preservation is making sure that the BLM and our elected officials know where the public stands on Juniper Flats. We have begun a petition drive to urge the BLM to give National Conservation Land status to the area. In just two weekends in the High Desert, Alliance for Desert Preservation volunteers have already secured nearly 2,000 signatures. Click here to sign the petition online.
The petition drive is just one part of the Alliance’s full-court press to gather letters, petition signatures, and other emblems of mass public support for full protection for Juniper Flats, and to hand them over to the public officials who have responsibility for Juniper Flats.
The response from both individuals and organizations has been amazing. It is hard to find anyone who knows Juniper Flats who doesn’t want to add their name to the campaign. This vast base of support is sending a strong message to our public officials.
According to the BLM, “National Conservation Lands are part of an active, vibrant landscape where people live, work, and play. They offer exceptional opportunities for recreation, solitude, wildlife viewing, exploring history, scientific research, and a wide range of traditional uses.”
“That perfectly describes Juniper Flats,” said Ravana. “It’s virtually adjacent to four desert communities. Residents and visitors come to hike, watch birds, drive off-highway, rock climb, and enjoy beauty and solitude. It’s exactly the kind of special place that deserves National Conservation Land status.”
Juniper Flats is home to more than 50 endangered and threatened species and species of special concern, as well as a number of carbonate-endemic plants that grow nowhere else in the world. It contains American Indian cultural sites, a range of vegetation from creosote and Joshua trees to piñon-juniper woodlands, and springs and seeps that are critically important to wildlife.
“It’s a thrill to see golden eagles soaring over these ridgelines,” said Ravana. “And in winter, bald eagles use them to move among wintering sites in the San Bernardinos. Plus Juniper Flats is home to endangered bird species like the southwestern willow flycatcher and the least Bell’s vireo—and it’s a critical wildlife corridor for bighorn sheep, mule deer, and mountain lions traveling between the San Bernardino and Granite Mountains. These are all incredibly sensitive species that could be lost to this area if industrial energy development were ever allowed to occur. This is why we so strongly feel that it must be named a National Conservation Land.”