Mojave Desert Land Trust was formed in 2005 by a small group of concerned citizens to address growing concern over the development that threatens the fragile ecosystems and quality of life for residents and visitors within the Mojave Desert. With an organized planning effort, a collaborative team of citizens, scientists, conservation experts and public agencies generated the Land Trust’s mission statement, a detailed Strategic Plan, and the California Desert Vision.
In 2006, with a clear vision and strategic plan in place, one part-time employee and the dedication of the founding board members, the Land Trust began its work to protect the desert’s ecosystems with grant funding to acquire privately-held parcels (inholdings) within three desert national parks - Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park. Once acquired, the inholdings would be conveyed to the National Park Service for long-term management. To date, 532 parcels representing over 23,000 acres within desert national parks have been preserved and more than 12,000 acres conveyed. MDLT monitors all parcels that are outside of a designated wilderness area in perpetuity through its land stewardship program to ensure that they remain undeveloped and protected from incompatible uses.
Late in 2006, MDLT began its work to preserve wildlife linkages by acquiring 639 acres within a wildlife corridor, the Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage, adjacent to the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. Its first public fundraising campaign to acquire land was conducted and 400 new members joined the land trust to help reach the goal. The land was acquired in 2007, given the name Nolina Peak, and conveyed to the park in 2008. The park’s boundary was adjusted to include the land and will be monitored in perpetuity by MDLT’s land stewards.
With grant funding in 2009, MDLT also began to acquire inholdings within 40 designated Wilderness Areas in the California desert. To date, 163 parcels and over 7,400 acres are preserved. Additionally, we now acquire inholdings within Desert Wildlife Management Areas (created to protect critical tortoise habitat) and Wilderness Study Areas, and have preserved 240 parcels or nearly 3,000 acres to date. All of these lands either have been or are currently being conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management for long-term management.
MDLT launched another public fundraising campaign in 2009 to acquire 957 acres within the same wildlife corridor as Nolina Peak, on the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. Called the Quail Mountain Project, MDLT intended to preserve the watersheds, high density tortoise habitat, big horn sheep, mountain lion and bobcat habitat that reach beyond the park’s boundaries. A five-year land acquisition partnership with the Department of the Navy (representing the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms, CA) was signed and more than 400 new members of the land trust joined the effort. MDLT closed escrow to acquire the parcels in September of 2010 and is currently working with the park service toward a boundary adjustment to include the land within the park for long-term management.
The acquisitions of Nolina Peak and the Quail Mountain Project have permanently protected 1,596 acres within the Joshua Tree North Wildlife Linkage. With grant funding from the California Department of Fish and Game, the Land Trust acquired an additional 530 acres within this corridor in December of 2011, bringing the total acres preserved to 2,126. Fundraising for the acquisition of additional parcels within this linkage is currently underway through the Wildlife Linkage Campaign.
Since work began in 2006, the organization has acquired an average of 19 acres per day. In recognition of these accomplishments, Mojave Desert Land Trust was honored with the 2011 “Conservationist of the Year” award by the Western Section of The Wildlife Society. The award was presented at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, CA for the Land Trust’s conservation and stewardship programs.
Painting © Diane Best