• Steve Brown

New bill introduced to protect and preserve California's deserts

A new bill has been introduced that would help protect and preserve California's deserts.
A new bill has been introduced that would help protect and preserve California's deserts.

California State Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia has introduced AB 2839, the California Deserts Conservancy Act, a piece of legislation that would create a land conservancy for the Mojave and Colorado deserts region of the state.

If passed by the legislature, the California Deserts Conservancy Act would:

(a) Protect, conserve, and restore the region’s natural, cultural, archaeological, historical, and physical resources.

(b) Provide for resilience to climate change.

(c) Protect and improve water and air quality.

(d) Provide increased opportunities for tourism and recreation.

(e) Engage community members across diverse interests through education, outreach, and volunteer projects.

(f) Assist the regional economy through the operation of the conservancy’s programs.

(g) Identify the highest priority projects and initiatives for which funding is needed and make grants to fund them.

(h) Provide grants for the acquisition of available unique and fragile regional parcels of land for conservation and wildlife corridor preservation, with potential conveyance to federal or state agencies.

(i) Provide grants for capital improvements for recreational facilities to encourage and enhance access for visitors, including nontraditional users.

(j) Reduce the risk of natural disasters, such as wildfires, and provide for the recovery and enhancement of plant and animal populations by controlling invasive species.

(k) Undertake efforts to enhance public use and enjoyment of lands owned by the public.

(l) Support efforts that advance both environmental preservation and the economic well-being of desert residents in a complementary manner.

The legislation notes that California's desert lands are a "globally significant area," that are an important part of the state's economy, with total direct travel spending in the region estimated to be at $7,600,000,000 in 2018, supporting 73,000 jobs. Total government revenue generated from that travel to the region in 2018 was $609,000,000.

AB-2839 notes that the region is also highly popular as a travel destination and recreational area, with high biological diversity, but it also faces numerous challenges, from climate change to invasive plants, wildfires, and sustainable water supplies.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, but whether it moves out of committee during the COVID-19 pandemic is questionable.

Read the text of AB-2839 HERE.

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