• Steve Brown

California Desert Protection and Recreation Act becomes law, protects nearly half a million acres

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act has become law, protecting nearly half a million acres of desert.

President Trump has signed into law a package of public lands bills, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation Management and Recreation Act, which included The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act. The Act permanently protects nearly 500,000 acres of public land in California, protecting invaluable water resources, wildlife habitat, historic trails, and recreation lands that all play a role in travel and tourism for the region.

The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act, introduced as S. 67 and H.R. 376, designates 375,500 acres of wilderness and more than 70 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and adds 43,000 acres to Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both (D-CA), and Representatives Paul Cook (R-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), also establishes the 81,800-acre Vinagre Wash Special Management Area in Imperial County to protect ecologically sensitive areas and Native American heritage sites. In addition, it designates the 18,840-acre Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in Inyo County for continued recreational use.

The signing of this legislation into law is the culmination of a decades-long desert conservation effort by Senator Feinstein, along with members of the congressional delegation, who worked with elected officials, business owners, veterans, local faith leaders, sportsmen, historians, conservationists and others to protect this unique landscape and preserve our desert heritage for future generations.

Support for the measure was widespread among Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and reaction to its passing was positive.

“This legislation is a huge win for conservation,” said Geary Hund, Executive Director, Mojave Desert Land Trust. “It ensures that some of the most important natural and cultural resources in the Mojave Desert will be protected and connected in perpetuity. It contributes to the creation of an interconnected system of reserves including Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Trails National Monument, and the Mojave National Preserve. These areas are critically important to maintaining the health of desert ecosystems and more specifically, they are important to iconic desert species such as desert tortoise and bighorn sheep.”

“After many years of persistence, we are excited to see the cooperation and hard work of local stakeholders finally coming to fruition with the designation of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area” said Matt Kingsley, 5th District – Inyo County Supervisor, “This bill recognizes the unique character of the Alabama Hills but also preserves the many activities of locals and visitors alike.”

Barbara Durham, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, thanked Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Paul Cook for their “persistence and leadership” in getting the bill passed. “This bill is important to the Timbisha people because it gives us peace of mind to know that more of our ancestral lands and sacred sites are finally going to receive the permanent protection that they deserve.”

“On behalf of veterans across California, Vet Voice Foundation is gratified to see President Trump sign this public lands package,” said Vet Voice Foundation’s California State Director and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Kate Hoit. “As a veteran working in California to protect our lands, I know these protections and expansions are crucial to veteran reintegration. We rely on these public lands to reconnect with our loved ones and communities when we return home.”

Passage of the California Desert Protection and Conservation Act will boost the local economy, according to the Campaign for the California Desert.   Visitors from across the country and around the globe come to explore and enjoy the California desert’s outstanding hiking, camping, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association Found that outdoor recreation in California generates $92 billion in consumer spending, 691,000 jobs, $30.4 billion in wages and salaries and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

The California Desert Protection and Conservation Act in Maps (Note: Maps may state "proposed." They are now adopted.)

Joshua Tree National Park Boundary Changes and Additions

Joshua Tree National Park boundary changes

Joshua Tree National Park boundary additions

Death Valley National Park Additions

Death Valley National Park Warm Spring Canyon/Galena Canyon Wilderness Area

Death Valley National Park Panamint Valley Wilderness Area

Death Valley National Park Ibex Wilderness Area

Death Valley National Park North Eureka Valley Wilderness Area

Death Valley National Park Bowling Alley Wilderness Area

Death Valley National Park Bowling Alley Boundary Addition

Death Valley National Park Axe Head Wilderness Area

Death Valley National Park Crater Boundary Addition

Mojave National Preserve Additions

Mojave National Preserve Boundary Addition

Additional Wilderness

San Gorgonio Wilderness Boundary Addition

Great Falls Basin Wilderness

Golden Valley Wilderness Addition

OHV Recreation Areas

Spangler Hills OHV Recreation Area

Rasor OHV Recreation Area

El Mirage OHV Recreation Area

Stoddard Valley OHV Recreation Area

Dumont Dunes OHV Recreation Area


Whitewater River Wild & Scenic River

Surprise Canyon Wild & Scenic River

Holcomb Creek Wild & Scenic River

Deep Creek Wild & Scenic River

Amargosa River Wild & Scenic River

Table Mountain Wilderness Study Area Transfer to State

Juniper Flats

Alabama Hills National Scenic Area

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