The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) has reached a new milestone in California desert conservation, with more than 100,000 acres of land protected since 2006.
MDLT plays a vital role in preserving public land and resources for future generations. MDLT has transferred almost half of the land acquired over the past 15 years to the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management; in fact, it has conveyed more tracts of land to the National Parks system than any nonprofit since 2006. By acquiring land from willing sellers, MDLT helps piece together and expand public lands.
MDLT has also taken responsibility for the long-term stewardship of conservation lands, managing, and restoring these properties to preserve habitat for native plants and animals, and to promote ecosystem resilience to climate change.
There are a number of major conservation successes within the 100,000 acres protected by MDLT.
In Death Valley National Park, more than 680 acres of terrain ranging from salt flats and mining prospects to mountain tops have been conveyed to the National Park Service.
MDLT has conserved more than 25,000 acres in Mojave National Preserve, including former mining claims in the New York Mountains, homesteads in Lanfair Valley, and Joshua tree woodlands.
Joshua Tree National Park has been a key focus area for the land trust. Since its first acquisition of Nolina Peak in 2007, MDLT has conserved 10,290 acres within the park. One of the acquisition areas includes Samuelson’s Rocks, which Superintendent David Smith describes as “truly one of the most unique historical sites we have in the California desert.”
Wilderness has the highest protection of any federal wildlands. MDLT has played an important role in their protection, including acquiring all the remaining private parcels in three wilderness areas. To date, MDLT has preserved more than 24,000 acres of wilderness.
One of MDLT’s most exciting acquisitions has been Palisades Ranch, a 1,647-acre property straddling 3.5 miles of the Mojave River. Its riparian woodland and aquatic habitats attract nearly 40 special-status species, including two federally listed birds, the Least Bell’s vireo and the yellow-billed cuckoo.
At the far western edge of the Mojave Desert, adjacent to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, MDLT has acquired seven distinctive desert springs which, collectively, support a portion of one of the most important bird migration corridors in California.
MDLT permanently holds 6,812 acres for conservation easements, protecting desert tortoise and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat, among others.
Development was slated for several properties acquired by MDLT, including 623 acres known as the Section 33 Gateway parcel to Joshua Tree, and the 1,647-acre Palisades Ranch.
“MDLT was started by a group of concerned citizens intent on preserving the incredible beauty, dark night skies, and ecosystems of the Mojave Desert,” said Geary Hund, executive director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. “Our service region has since expanded to take in the entire California desert, where we have helped secure lasting protections for lands within our national parks and monuments, wilderness and habitat linkages. These 100,000 acres tell the story of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. We are proud of every acre conserved. Special thanks go to our donors, partners and supporters, without whom this work isn’t possible.”
Bureau of Land Management California Desert District Manager Andrew Archuleta said the MDLT has proven to be a strong and valuable partner in helping to acquire and convey land parcels to the Bureau of Land Management.
“MDLT’s acquisitions have allowed BLM to consolidate lands within wilderness areas allowing for contiguous land ownership and improving our ability to conserve the biological, cultural and scenic resources of the California Desert,” Archuleta said.
The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic, and cultural value within the Mojave Desert.
Since its founding in 2006 the land trust has conserved 101,327 acres, conveying more tracts of land to the National Park Service in the last decade than any other organization.
In addition to acquiring land, the land trust established a seed bank to ensure the preservation of native species. MDLT operates an onsite nursery at its Joshua Tree headquarters, which propagates native species for ecosystem restoration. MDLT educates and advocates for the conservation of the desert, involving hundreds of volunteers in our work. For more information, visit mdlt.org.