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Efforts continue to quell the backlash over President Donald Trump’s changing statements on the Russia summit. Also on the Thursday rundown: protestors are out for Mike Pence’s visit to Missouri; and nobody wants to go, but one option is green burials.

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Tomorrow Last Day to Comment on Opening Desert to More Development

The Trump administration wants to upend a plan to protect the Southern California desert that took 8 years to negotiate. (bigwest1/iStockphoto)
The Trump administration wants to upend a plan to protect the Southern California desert that took 8 years to negotiate. (bigwest1/iStockphoto)
March 21, 2018

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Tomorrow is the last day to register your opinion on whether or not to reopen the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan, which set aside land for solar, wind and geothermal development as well as for wildlife habitat and ATV use.

The land-use plan covers more than 22 million acres of the desert areas of Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Angelina Galiteva, founder of the Renewable 100 Policy Institute, said it is a terrible idea to throw out a hard-won agreement that took eight years to negotiate.

"The worst case scenario would be to basically say the DRECP isn't anything that's going to govern development and we're going to take a pristine piece of land and allow development to happen without any kind of consideration that this plan went through,” Galiteva said.

The DRECP was finalized toward the end of the Obama administration, after extensive negotiations between stakeholders, including government planners, the renewable-energy industry, local businesses, conservation groups and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. The area is home to multiple fragile species, such as the desert bighorn sheep and the desert tortoise.

The move to redo the plan stems from a review - ordered by the Department of the Interior - of any policies that might impede domestic energy production.

Paul Smith, owner of the 29 Palms Inn, near Joshua Tree National Park, said the desert attracts more than 6 million visitors a year from around the world - mostly drawn by the wide open vistas.

"Tourism in the California desert would be significantly affected by man made objects which interrupt the beautiful scenic view sheds which exist right now,” Smith said. “Key among those potential industrial assets would be solar fields and wind farms."

Smith said he opposes reopening the plan because it will reintroduce a huge amount of uncertainty for the region's future.

Karen Douglas, head of the California Energy Commission, said in a statement that it is not necessary to revise the plan because the state already has enough space designated to meet its renewable energy goals.

Comments can by submitted by emailing BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA