Outgoing Trump Administration Reopens California Desert to Unnecessary Development


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

CONTACT: Mariana Maguire, Communications Director,

Yucca Valley, California.  On January 14, 2021, during the Trump Administration’s final week in office, the Department of the Interior issued a draft Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) to reverse the balance of development and conservation in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). This eleventh-hour move reopens protected lands for development, threatens the California desert’s fragile ecosystems and recreation economies, and dismisses eight years of stakeholder collaboration and consensus on the DRECP.

The California Desert Coalition calls on the Biden Administration to retract the DRECP amendment and honor the values of California Desert communities by affirming the 2016 Plan and issuing enduring protections for the conservation lands.

The new LUPA repeals conservation designations for millions of acres of public lands ratified under the original 2016 DRECP Record of Decision and allows industrial-scale renewable energy development on almost half a million acres of pristine desert land – far more than is needed to meet California’s ambitious renewable energy goals.

If the amendment is successful, prime desert conservation areas like Juniper Flats, the Granite Mountains near Lucerne Valley, Panamint Valley, and portions of the Chuckwalla Bench could once again be vulnerable to industrial-scale renewable energy projects and other intensive land uses that would permanently harm wildlife, vistas, renowned night skies, and unique rock formations that provide myriad recreation, education, scientific research, and tourism benefits. 

“The changes in the new DRECP LUPA are emblematic of the Trump Administration’s hostility towards conservation and undermines the values of stakeholders throughout the California Desert region,” said April Sall, President of California Desert Coalition (CDC).  “The DRECP’s original conservation measures were approved by the Department of the Interior; reflected a thoughtful balance between conservation and industry; and were supported by renewable energy companies, environmentalists, the military and the scientific community.” 

The public contributed more than 16,000 public comments on the original DRECP, largely in support of the Plan. Furthermore, the DRECP was never contested in court – a testament to the Plan’s efficacy and consensus support from communities as diverse as off-road enthusiasts and conservationists.

The proposed changes to the DRECP are also fundamentally out of step with newly elected President Biden’s support for the 30 by 30 conservation initiative, which seeks to conserve biodiversity by preserving 30% of the lands and waters of the United States. 

Additional details are available in our latest blog: Outgoing Administration Threatens California Desert, Nixes Balanced Use, Reopens Development Push

The California Desert Coalition ( is a nonpartisan, issue advocacy group that exists to give the California desert a voice in its future. We build coalitions to promote a deeper understanding of public policy issues and to stitch together the voices that are responsible for these decisions.