California Desert Protection Act Maps

FURTHER UPDATED: Laurel Williams of the California Wilderness Coalition reminds me that many photos and descriptions of the land involved can be found at

UPDATED! Ryan has sent along maps for the National Park properties, and I’ve amended the post to include those. Thanks, Ryan.

Courtesy Ryan Henson of the California Wilderness Coalition, I’ve made available a number of maps, prepared by Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff, of lands that would be affected by the California Desert Protection Act of 2010. These maps do not cover all the lands involved in detail: In particular, additions to Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and the Mojave National Preserve are not fully covered. See update. These maps give a good summary, for those of us who are somewhat familiar with the California desert, of what the Act would do.

The maps are current as of January 2010, but the areas covered by the Act will no doubt change as the bill makes its way through Congress. If you’re reading this post much later than the date I published it, be advised these maps may be out of date.

All the maps are in PDF format. I’ve shrunk the file size as much as possible, but be aware that each map generally runs between one and two megs. Downloading them all may take a few minutes on broadband. Feel free to repost or otherwise share the maps.

To start with, here’s the text of the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, and a map with an overview of the lands affected. I wrote a summary of the bill here.

As regards the most dramatic positives of the bill, the new National Monuments, we have:

the Proposed Sand to Snow National Monument connecting Joshua Tree National Park with protected lands in the San Bernardino Mountains, and
the Proposed Mojave Trails National Monument stretching from the Nevada state line nearly to Barstow.

National Parks: The Act would add significant tracts to the three National Park units in California’s desert, and designate five wilderness areas in Death Valley NP. The list:

Death Valley National Park Boundary Additions:
Crater, which would fill a donut hole in the north of the Park;
Bowling Alley, along the south border of the Park, and
Ryan Camp

Death Valley National Park Proposed Wilderness:
Panamint Valley
Axe Head
Bowling Alley
North Eureka Valley

Joshua Tree National Park Boundary Addition:
North Boundary 

Mojave National Preserve Boundary Additions:
Castle Mountains
Baker: this one is not really of ecological significance, it would seem, being basically right in Baker. I imagine it’s planned as an operations center or somesuch.

Other wilderness: The Act would also designate a number of new wilderness areas outside National Park units, some administered by the BLM and some by the National Park Service. They include:

the Kingston Range Proposed Wilderness Additions north of Baker;
the Avawatz Mountains Proposed Wilderness between Baker and Death Valley (this map shows some of the Death Valley National Park expansion and wilderness additions as well);
the Soda Mountains Proposed Wilderness west of Baker;
the Great Falls Basin Proposed Wilderness northeast of Ridgecrest;
the Golden Valley Proposed Wilderness Additions southeast of Ridgecrest, and;
the Palo Verde Mountains and Indian Pass Mountains Potential Wilderness Additions, Milpitas Wash and Buzzards Peak Potential Wilderness, and Vinagre Wash proposed Special Management Area, all clustered together along the Colorado River in Imperial County.
Another wilderness-related provision of the Act would transfer Table Mountain wilderness study area to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: the State Parks would be required to manage the area as wilderness.

On the rampant destruction side of the equation, the Act would designate a number of sacrifice areas to the off-roaders. They are:
the Stoddard Valley Proposed National OHV Recreation Area between Barstow and Victorville;
the Proposed El Mirage National OHV Recreation Area between Barstow and Lancaster;
the Johnson Valley Proposed National OHV Recreation Area which also serves as potential expansion area for the 29 Palms Marine Corps Base;
the Spangler Hills Proposed National OHV Recreation Area just outside of Ridgecrest, and;
the Rasor Proposed National OHV Recreation Area adjacent to the western edge of the Mojave National Preserve.

As I find more maps of the areas involved, I’ll post them. Thanks again, Ryan.

20 thoughts on “California Desert Protection Act Maps

  1. Cascadian

    So, on balance, what’s a defender of the desert supposed to do here? Oppose this and let it all remain unprotected, or accept the destruction of some areas in exchange for saving others?

  2. Chris Clarke

    Howdy Cascadian!

    I support this bill. I also think there’s lots of room for improvement. The Act will see a lot of changes as it makes its way through the sausage factory, and desert defenders will have to keep the pressure on so that the good parts of the Act don’t get whittled away, and to try and whittle away the bad parts of the Act.

    It’s my impression that the National OHV Recreation Areas delineated in the Act already see intense ORV use, though I’m not completely familiar with the areas, so I don’t know whether the boundaries of the NORAs constitute an encroachment on untrampled lands.

  3. Cascadian

    Thanks for the clarification, Chris. I’m from the Seattle area and not intimately familiar with these areas, but hopeful the right thing can be done to protect them.

  4. Ryan Henson, CWC

    Hi guys. Yes, just to clarify, the OHV areas have been used as OHV areas for decades. What the bill would do is replace their current administrative designation with a legislative designation. What this means is that the BLM couldn’t develop them for energy, allow the military to take them over, etc without an act of Congress. While many conservationists oppose the OHV areas out of principle, others can accept them in exchange for the good stuff in the bill if the language in the legislation is tweaked. Specifically, many enviros want language ensuring that the BLM retains the management flexibility to change the way the OHV areas are run if a compelling need arises.

  5. omegapet

    I’m sure there’s some explanation (cough, lawyers!); but there must be a reason why the Mojave Trails Nat’l Monument (MoTrNM) is so carefully drawn AROUND instead of INCLUDING the already-designated Kelso, Bristol,  Trilobite, Clipper, Bigelow, and Chemeheuvi Wilderness Areas.
      On a typical general-use map MoTrNM would show as a crazy-quilt slice of swiss cheese draped across half of southeast California.
      Imagine if the old original Death Valley Nat’l Monument had big holes in its center around the Badwater sink and the Ubehebe Crater.  Might as well write “there be dragons here!”
      Isn’t MoTrNM going to be a BLM-run monument (e.g., not-NPS-run)—meaning the Trilobite Wilderness et al. aren’t even changing their responsibility?

  6. Ryan Henson


    Yes, the MTNM will be managed by the BLM, not the NPS.

    As for your other question, certain key people wanted the proposed monument to not exceed a certain size. By excluding existing wilderness from the MTNM, the acreage could be reduced without having any negative consequences on the land.


  7. omegapet

    My thanks to Ryan and Chris, and apologies to the lawyers.

    It’s the BEAN-COUNTERS fault!

    But, this makes sense in the current mountain-out-of-molehill political climate.

    Like the spit-storm over a misprinted number (of acres of vanishing Himalayan glaciers) in an international global-warming report.

  8. AldoRey

    ha guys, i live here! 887 million in stimulus bill for San Bernardino County and 0 for environment! Only County with NO multi-species plan and 250 million went to ‘refurbish’ military bases (shouldn’t that have been in Defense Reauthorization Act and creates NO shovel jobs?); the military is still getting to displace tortoises, ecosystems, etc., then get to use PUBLIC land for energy projects and they keep the profit??????????????????? All wilderness, nothing less; ps-the asshole Sierra Grubb and Audobondage will sell out here just like Tejon!!! Don’t trust them!

  9. Sven DiMilo

    Thanks, Chris.
    Castle Mountains is key.

    this one is not really of ecological significance, it would seem, being basically right in Baker.

    Long-overdue federal protection for the Bun Boy?
    Or the Mad Greek? (are they still there?)

  10. Ryan Henson


    The parcel in Baker is for NPS employee housing and for the construction of maintenance facilities that are better left outside of the Preserve.


  11. Bill Mcdonald

    Long time lurker here.

    I for one am very happy to see the proposed Castle Mtns addition
    and the Kingston additions.

    Too bad the location for the BrightSource project isn’t included!

  12. Chris Clarke

    Welcome, Bill. Everyone go check out Bill’s site. He’s got some good desert stuff there.

    I agree: It would be nice to have the Preserve expand farther into the Ivanpah Valley. I’d actually suggest, were the maps mine to draw, that the Preserve extend into Nevada, taking in the McCullough Mountains and Wee Thump wilderness. Heading north of I-15 on the west side of Clark Mountain would be pretty cool as well: there’s some stunning country between Cima Rd. and the Kingston Wilderness.

    Ryan, thanks again for the inside info. Now I’m imagining living in Baker.

  13. Mark

    I was shocked to see the extent of wind power development in the CA desert from overhead while flying from LA to Houston recently.  My reaction to wind farms has gone from “that’s cool” to “that’s awful” as they have taken over formerly beautiful ridgelines & industrialized the desert landscape in areas I used to find majestic & seemingly “above” many of the other encroachments on desert beauty that make an old desert rat like me very sad.  From overhead, you can see all the roads & environmental destruction that certainly must accompany these energy developments.  Next, I’m sure we’ll be seeing big solar farms covering expanses of natural desert.  I’m beginning to rethink my opposition to nuclear power.  It seems there’s a huge sacrifice of nature to industry required for “green energy,” especially in areas like the desert that most people think of as “brown” (=> “disposable”). Containment of energy development is perhaps going to become a bigger concern than containment of off-road vehicles, imho.

  14. Sam Penrose

    Hey Chris—

    Nice to see you reaching such a wide audience. Thanks for the links; I read them. Here’s what I think we agree on:

    1) Preserving robust wild regions, including the deserts you focus on, is at the heart of any “environmentalism” worth the name.
    2) Global warming is a looming disaster.
    3) The most regrettable of its damage will be that done to robust wild regions.
    4) All routes to meliorating the impact require broad reworking of America’s (and the world’s) energy economy.

    I confess to a little disappointment at seeing you compare solar power executives to William Westmoreland and solar power advocates to Joseph Stalin, but I will resist the temptation to focus on that. Instead, I’d like to ask your thoughts on point (4), which I don’t see in the links you give.

    I ask to educate myself before I begin my own dialogue with Senator Feinstein’s office. I’ve been impressed with Boxer’s leadership on climate change. When I look for similar leadership from Feinstein I see, in addition to the NYT article I linked, passages in which global warming is one of three bullet points, along with perchlorate and the National Park Serviceís Centennial. This concerns me. So I’d love to hear any insights you have on the issue or the Senator.


  15. Chris Clarke

    I think it’s a bit of a superficial analysis of what I actually wrote to say that I made “comparisons” as you describe above.

    My thoughts on point 4 are that we will indeed need to restructure our energy economy, if by “economy” we mean the way we generate and use energy. Namely, we have to admit that the era of cheap electricity isn’t just over, but that it never actually happened: rather, we’re just paying now for the 100W closet lightbulbs our parents left shining.

    More importantly, the era of centralized generation of electrical power is over. Giant concentrating solar facilities in the desert, which lose energy in transmission to far-off users *and* require considerable carbon outlay in merely transporting materials, labor and water to the site, are a last attempt by utilities to hold on to a 20th century monopoly utility structure. Advances in distributed generation have been astounding of late ó if the information you (generic you) cite on photovoltaics was published a year ago, it’s obsolete.

    The major thing keeping distributed generation from developing in the US is not an engineering factor, or a technology factor, or a social factor: it’s an artificially restricted market in which utilities can take power from distributed generators without paying for more than a small percentage of it. If utilities were required to purchase power from generators at fair market rates, PV and other distributed generation installations would mushroom. If we went a bit further and passed a feed-in tariff law, in which utilities paid a guaranteed and slightly more favorable price for small-scale renewables, then most homeowners would start shopping for PV. This is happening in Germany right now. Germany is not the sunniest place in the world, but in 2005 they were already getting a tenth of their electrical power from renewable sources. California could be creating

    And of course the more the grid moves toward distributed, smaller-scale generators, the more robust that grid will be. As cities produce more of their own power, the importance of interties lessens, losses in transmission lessen, and vulnerability to disruption lessens. Of course, utilities’ income from transmission also lessens, and as most electrical utilities are more in the business of moving electricity than they are generating it, this becomes a bit of a sticking point.

    My friend Larry Hogue came up with a great general fact sheet on desert solar and the alternatives and mitigations thereof. It’s here.