A new plan released last month for renewable energy development across 10 million acres of federal public lands in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts will help birds two ways: first, by safeguarding the most important landscapes for resident and migratory birds; and second, by helping accelerate ambitious renewable energy goals. Audubon research shows that 314 bird species, including dozens that either migrate through the desert or use this landscape year-round, are in danger in coming years if we do nothing to stem the global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
The Desert Renewable Conservation Plan is part of an ongoing collaborative effort between officials from the state of California and the federal government, along with authorities and local jurisdictions and conservation groups, to determine sites most appropriate for renewable energy projects—and thus speed their approval and development. The first phase of the Desert Renewable Conservation Plan covers federal lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. It is expected that subsequent phases will include private lands where local governments permit projects.
Audubon California has spent eight years as the voice for birds in this federal and state stakeholder planning process working closely with the six chapters in the DRECP Plan Area - Eastern Sierra Audubon, Kern Audubon, Kerncrest Audubon, San Fernando Valley Audubon, San Bernardino Valley Audubon, and San Diego Audubon.
The desert areas protected by the new plan include more than 20 Important Bird Areas, noteworthy for their value to breeding, foraging, migrating, resident or resting birds. Birds that will benefit from this include the Golden Eagle, Burrowing Owl, Tricolored Blackbird, Swainson’s Hawk, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and other sensitive species.