Earlier this month we mentioned how the Trust for Public Lands had secured more than 400 acres for Mount Rainier National Park. Now we can pass on that the Mojave Desert Land Trust has obtained more than 950 acres for Joshua Tree National Park.
And earlier this summer the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park obtained 20 acres for that park. These are just the latest examples of non-profit organizations working to benefit the national parks.
In the case of Joshua Tree, the land trust just completed the acquisition of 955 acres of pristine wildlife habitat on the northern boundary of the park. The acquisition, at a cost of roughly $1.6 million, will permanently preserve a section of wildlife corridor required for the movement of bighorn sheep, badger, mule deer, mountain lion and dozens of bird species, in addition to providing pristine habitat for the recovery of the threatened desert tortoise, according to a release from the trust.
The land also protects a key aviation corridor from development that would be incompatible with the mission of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in 29 Palms, California.
The acquisition was made possible through public and private donations, the Mojave Desert Land Trust's land acquisition fund, partnership funding provided by the Department of the Navy on behalf of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, and Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, CA.
The acquisition protects a vital section of wildlife corridor and habitat that reaches beyond the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park, where animals must travel in order to survive.
“The Mojave Desert Land Trust is our primary partner in conservation of park lands, having acquired over 21,000 acres in the Desert Parks, including Nolina Peak," noted Joshua Tree Superintendent Curt Sauer. "Over two years ago, (then-)Regional Director Jon Jarvis confirmed the Park Service's interest in obtaining protected status for these 955 acres. We are happy that MDLT has been successful in their endeavor, and we look forward to working with them to add these lands to Joshua Tree.”
To complete the project, the Department of the Navy and the land trust inked a five-year Encroachment Protection Agreement to partner on land acquisition projects that mutually benefit MCAGCC’s encroachment protection strategies and the land trust’s mission to protect wildlife habitat and other lands with high conservation values. The Department of the Navy provided $431,000 to acquire conservation easements on the land, enabling the Land Trust to complete the first acquisition under the agreement.
In addition to the Department of the Navy and MDLT’s funds, Copper Mountain College (CMC) added $90,000 to the Quail Mountain Project to fulfill mitigation requirements from their Habitat Conservation Plan. The Quail Mountain project will preserve hundreds of acres of high density tortoise habitat that fulfills CMC’s requirement to acquire 30 acres of tortoise habitat.
“This is a major victory for our partners, land trust members and for the protection of the Quail Mountain ecosystem," said Nancy Karl, the land trust's executive director. "We congratulate and thank the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and Copper Mountain College, along with every one of our Land Trust members, for their unwavering dedication to the project during the last eighteen months. Their commitment to preserving vital desert land ensures that future generations will experience the beautiful natural areas that we appreciate today. We look forward to ushering the land into the safe hands of Joshua Tree National Park for its permanent protection.”