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Group seeks protection that could block wind project

LUCERNE VALLEY – The Alliance for Desert Preservation announced Thursday a campaign to secure National Conservation Land status for Juniper Flats, a 100,000-acre area managed by the Bureau of Land Management, stretching along High Desert ridgelines from Lucerne Valley to Apple Valley.

The designation would effectively prohibit all future development in Juniper Flats – including a proposed wind energy project – while allowing for traditional uses such as hiking and off-highway driving, the organization said in a news release.

Under the preferred alternative in the recently released draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, Juniper Flats was designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

That status refers to a “BLM area within public lands where special management attention is required to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources or other natural systems of processes, or to protect life and safety from natural hazards,” according to the DRECP’s glossary.

“Juniper Flats is an extraordinarily beautiful, fragile and ecologically abundant landscape,” alliance President Rich Ravana said. “The DRECP agencies recognized this by naming it an ACEC. But big energy companies are proven experts in doing end-runs around BLM labels like ACEC.

“Juniper Flats needs and merits the much stronger level of protection that National Conservation Land status would give it. We want to keep Juniper Flats exactly as it is – untouched, but accessible to everyone who loves it and enjoys it.”

The alliance said it launched the Preserve Juniper Flats campaign with a petition drive, securing nearly 2,000 signatures urging the BLM to give National Conservation Land status to the area. The petition is online at noonwindmills.com/sign-petition.