A 600+-acre track of land near Joshua Tree National Park that was to become a housing development instead has been purchased by two conservation groups that intend to leave it undeveloped and used for educational and recreational purposes.
The 623 acres lies in an area known as the Joshua Tree North Linkage, which extends approximately 11 miles from the north end of the national park to the 29 Palms Marine Base. The acquisition, made possible by the Trust for Public Land and the Mojave Desert Land Trust, brings the total number of acres preserved in this linkage to 2,750. The 623 acres collectively is called the "Gateway Parcel," because it’s located at the town of Joshua Tree's entry point and welcomes residents and visitors with iconic views of Joshua Tree National Park through more than 10,000 Joshua trees.
These linkage lands are important because they provide a migratory corridor for wildlife to move in and out of the park and help to ensure the park doesn't become biologically isolated. Local residents and visitors to the area will be able to walk their dogs on the land, hike on it, ride their horses, and enjoy nature.
A development of 2,400 homes had been planned for the property, but faced strong local opposition and the would-be developer eventually defaulted on the property," according to Mojave Desert Land Trust officials. It includes more than 10,000 Joshua trees and sits near the northern edge of the national park, at the intersection of California Highway 62 and La Contenta Road.
The successful protection effort was announced by a partnership of The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization which acquired it, and the Mojave Desert Land Trust, which then purchased it from The Trust for Public Land.
"With great partners and strong support from the community, an important section of the Joshua Tree North Linkage has been protected forever," said Nancy Karl, executive director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. "Restoring and sharing the land with adjacent neighborhoods and the school children across the street is very rewarding.”
“Protecting this land is important for the people who live in Joshua Tree,” added Alex Size, project manager of The Trust for Public Land. “It will help protect those qualities which make Joshua Tree such a unique place.”
The funding for the $1.4 million purchase came from a variety of sources, including a California state agency, The Wildlife Conservation Board, and the nearby Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in Twentynine Palms.
About half the money came from the Marine Corps through the Pentagon’s Readiness Environmental Protection Initiative program, which protects land near military bases. The money was used for a conservation easement, which means the land can never be developed, protecting a key aviation corridor between the base and military air stations in southern California.
“The Combat Center is committed to partnering with local organizations in order to find mutually beneficial land use solutions. The entire community benefits when we can find common ground in our shared values and goals between the local communities, supporting the unique desert environment and supporting, preserving and enhancing the military training mission,” said Jim Ricker, assistant chief of staff, G5 Plans of MCAGCC.
The California Wildlife Conservation Board provided $685,000. John Donnelly, WCB executive director, said “The acquisition of this property will help preserve the Joshua Tree North Linkage that is part of the larger Joshua Tree-Twentynine Palms habitat linkage connection. The property will preserve habitat and potential habitat for listed and special status species including the state and federally listed desert tortoise.”