Before Expiring, Key Law Achieves Win-Win For Southern California Lands

September 26, 2011

Cooper's Hawk

Mature Coopers hawk. Photo by Alan Vernon.

Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Helps Community College Expand in Palm Springs and Funds Priority Conservation

San Diego County, Calif. — Beauty Mountain Wilderness Area truly lives up to its name, with its dramatic rock formations and its namesake—the 5,500-foot Beauty Mountain—providing a stunning backdrop to an increasingly urbanized region. In partnership with The Conservation Fund, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently enhanced protection of this area’s wild beauty with the acquisition of a 400-acre property in northeastern San Diego County. Located adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest, Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and Anza Borrego Desert State Wilderness, the protected tract will permanently secure a portion of the San Luis Rey River’s upper watershed, safeguarding water quality and connecting vulnerable wildlife habitat.

“This acquisition furthers the BLM’s goal to improve water quality and completes the protection of the upper reaches of San Luis Rey River, which provide important habitat for many sensitive plants and wildlife species,” said John Kalish, Manager of the BLM’s Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office.

A priority for the BLM, this addition to the Johnson Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) was made possible with $1.2 million in dedicated funding from the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), a key ‘land for land’ conservation program that protects vital ecological, cultural, historic and recreational lands in the Western U.S. With the sale of a 119-acre property to the City of Palm Springs last summer for the future establishment of a cutting-edge, self-sustainable satellite campus for the College of the Desert (COD), the BLM secured the designated funds needed to purchase the property from a private landowner.

Since the completion of this project, FLTFA has expired and the future of this vital funding source is in the hands of U.S. Congress. Over the past 11 years, FLTFA has generated over $115 million from the sales of excess public lands in Western states and is projected to generate about $35 million each year for priority conservation projects, if reauthorized. The Conservation Fund and more than 80 groups support the reauthorization of FLTFA.

“This project demonstrates how the FLTFA can spur economic growth while preserving the vanishing landscapes and sensitive ecosystems that characterize our idea of the American West,” said Scott Ferguson Southern California program director for The Conservation Fund. “Protection of this property will enhance an undeveloped wildlife corridor that hosts over 55 rare, protected or declining species of plants and animals as well as provide additional public recreational opportunities less than an hour drive from downtown San Diego.”

Over the past six years, The Conservation Fund has partnered with the BLM and California’s Resource Legacy Foundation Fund to protect 13 tracts totaling more than 4,600 acres in the Beauty Mountain Management Area. This project in the Johnson Canyon ACEC is adjacent to Representative Darrell Issa’s proposed expansion of Beauty Mountain Wilderness Area.  Senator Boxer recently introduced companion legislation also focused on protecting the region’s natural resources.

Rich in cultural and historic resources and a popular destination for its exceptional scenic views, this region of San Diego County offers ideal habitat for approximately 55 endangered, threatened, rare, protected, or declining species including mountain lion, Golden Eagle, Coopers hawk, prairie falcon, San Diego horned lizard, and northern red-diamond rattlesnake.

“College of the Desert is pleased to note that recycling of public funds is providing two opportunities for considerable sustainability statements in Southern California,” said Dr. Edwin Deas, Vice President of Business Affairs at College of the Desert. “The City of Palm Springs provided the funds to purchase from the BLM the property that will become a landmark campus of sustainable design, practices, and education for COD. BLM has used those funds to acquire the property that will sustain the Beauty Mountain Wilderness Area in perpetuity. That is recycling at its most effective.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

  • Beauty Mountain Wilderness Area

    Cooper's Hawk

    Beauty Mountain Wilderness Area truly lives up to its name, with its dramatic rock formations and its namesake—the 5,500-foot Beauty Mountain—providing a stunning backdrop to the increasingly urbanized region around San Diego. Already a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, The Conservation Fund’s… Read More