October 31 isn’t just a day to celebrate ghosts and goblins for Halloween – it’s also a day to celebrate the California desert, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA).
Passed in 1994, this historic piece of legislation established the Death Valley and Joshua Tree as National Parks, created the Mojave National Preserve, and protected millions of acres of wilderness. The CDPA catalyzed 25 years of desert conservation legislative and administrative efforts leading to the protection of the largest contiguous stretch of conservation lands in the lower 48 states, which has brought enormous benefits to our region.
Most recently, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s longstanding efforts to update and expand protections for California desert lands culminated in the enactment of the bipartisan California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2019. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) , a 2016 comprehensive update to the 1980 California Desert Conservation Area Plan, and the product of landmark collaboration between local, state and federal government, designated 4.2 million acres of the desert’s most unique landscapes for conservation, while also identifying areas for renewable energy development to meet California’s climate goals.
Over the years, three national parks, four national monuments, and millions of acres of public lands have been designated specifically for recreation and conservation of cultural, historical and biological treasures. These protected lands draw millions of visitors from all over the world each year, bolstering local economies and creating jobs.
“It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate these last 25 years of desert protections that have brought so much to our community,” explained Joyce Kiehl, Communications Director for Visit Greater Palm Springs. “The California desert is home to amazing resources for residents and visitors to view wildlife, hike, star-gaze, and take part in other forms of recreation. Welcoming visitors from near-and-far helps bring millions of dollars each year to local businesses, creating jobs and boosting our regional economy.”
The economic benefit of desert travel, including visitor spending, industry earnings and government revenue, is increasing every year – from $5.5 billion in 2010 to $7.62 billion in 2018. Travel industry-generated employment in the California desert region has increased by more than 35% since 2010 alone, with an estimated 73,000 employees in 2018.
The millions of acres of protected public lands scatted throughout the southeastern corner of the California desert, reaches from the northern end of Death Valley to the U.S.-Mexico border. This 25-year anniversary is an important occasion to appreciate the public lands we enjoy in the California desert and recognize that without previous efforts to protect these lands we might not be able to experience them as we do today. Highlighting the importance of protecting these unspoiled areas will ensure that the California desert can be enjoyed now and by future generations.
There are plenty of ways you can join in the celebration. Activities like guided hikes, stargazing, ranger tours, art exhibits, stewardship events and more are happening through early November, so visit DesertLands.org/25years to find celebrations happening in your local desert community. And be sure to join in the fun online by tagging posts and photographs of your favorite Desert spots with the hashtags #ProtectCADeserts and #25yearsCADesertProtection.
Here’s to 25 more years of protecting our California desert!