MOJAVE DESERT, Calif. — In the last week of the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing big changes to a 2016 plan that took eight years to hammer out; a plan that had set aside millions of acres for conservation and recreation, as well as renewable energy.
The BLM is now proposing to allow activities like energy development, mining and grazing on more than one million additional acres.
Jeff Aardahl, California representative for the group Defenders of Wildlife, said habitat protections in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan are crucial to stopping the desert tortoise’s slide toward extinction.
“The desert tortoise in California is in bad shape; its populations are crashing,” Aardahl explained. “So, reducing those areas would be another blow to its potential for recovery.”
The BLM also proposes slashing about four million acres from the plan that are currently designated as areas of critical environmental concern or California Desert National Conservation Lands.
The feds claim these changes are necessary to meet California’s renewable-energy targets.
Aardahl suspects the new proposal will be dead on arrival once the Biden administration takes over.
“There’s nothing that requires BLM to do this,” Aardahl remarked. “It’s strictly discretionary on their part. And so, a new administration would have the full discretion to just simply announce to the public that it is terminating the previous proposal to amend the plan.”
The public has 90 days to comment on the proposed changes to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.