California Desert District

California Desert Conservation Area



Q. When Congress said the CDCA Plan should provide for "development" what did it mean?

A. Congress recognized that the Desert contains economic resources, as well as natural resources, that are equally important to the public. These include mineral resources, rights-of-way for powerlines and pipelines to supply needed energy, and forage for livestock grazing.

Q. Does the Desert contain valuable mineral resources?

A. Yes. The wide range of minerals is reflected in the complex and sometimes violent geologic history of the CDCA. The CDCA is highly mineralized, and contains significant proven reserves currently being developed, and the potential for the mineral resources yet to be explored.

Q. What are the known mineral resources?

A. There are approximately 34 mineral commodities currently being developed in the California Desert. Annual production is valued at more than $1 billion, helping to keep California one of the Nation's top mineral producing states. Some mineral deposits are rare and represent the major source for United States and world production. Deposits such as the borax deposit at Boron and the rare earth deposit at Mountain Pass represent nearly 100 percent of U.S. production of these important minerals. Important sodium and calcium minerals, as well as world class deposits of gypsum and specialty clay minerals are also being developed in the CDCA. Important gold production validates California's place as a world class producer of this important metal. Significant electrical energy is currently being produced from clean geothermal steam energy.

Q. Does the public receive any benefit from development of minerals on public lands?

A. All people of the United States benefit from access to and development of mineral resources in the CDCA. Many of the minerals mined in the CDCA are used everyday in products such as laundry detergents, toothpaste, pharmaceutical and chemical products, as well as in important applications in science and technology. Construction materials such as gypsum, and sand and gravel are especially important to our everyday lives as these minerals support the infrastructure, such as roads, homes, and commercial buildings, that sustains our daily activities.

Q. Can mining be allowed and still protect desert resources?

A. Yes. While mining is not a gentle process, all exploration and mining operators are required to conform to the most prudent operating practices, and are committed to reasonable reclamation of disturbances associated with exploration and extraction operations. Mining activity is monitored by the BLM under its regulations and the CDCA Plan, and some areas require detailed plans of operation subject to BLM review and approval. Most mineral operators are as committed to protecting desert resources as other desert users and have spent considerable effort developing reclamation standards that are applicable to restoring fragile desert environments.

Q. If mining involves such a small percentage of land, why not close off the rest of the Desert to this activity?

A. Currently there are approximately 124 mining operations in the desert, ranging from small individual "pick and shovel" activities to large open pit mining operations. Being a finite resource, mineral deposits eventually are depleted. Most of the desert has not been extensively explored for minerals, so it is necessary to look for new deposits to assure adequate supplies to meet future demand.

Q. Does BLM allow livestock grazing?

A. Yes, where appropriate. The desert has adequate forage in many areas for grazing livestock, as well as for wildlife. If properly managed, livestock grazing, which has been going on in the desert since the late 1800s, is an appropriate use of these resources.

Q. Are there any other development aspects of the plan?

A. Yes. Another critical use is providing rights-of-way for major powerlines, pipelines, telephone lines, and communication sites critical to southern California's rapidly growing population. The CDCA Plan identified corridors for these uses so they could be carefully controlled. These corridors are working very well and they allow construction, under environmental protection requirements, of needed energy and communication facilities.

Next section: Recreational Uses