The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently developing a new wilderness plan for the Mecca Hills and Orocopia Mountains Wilderness areas.
Designated by Congress through the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-433), the 26,243-acre Mecca Hills Wilderness and the 50,960-acre Orocopia Mountains Wilderness areas are located in central Riverside County, in the southern portion of the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA).
These two designated wilderness areas are adjacent to one another (Figure 1: Planning Area Map) and are characterized by numerous ridges, highly eroded and colorful canyons, sandy washes, and open valleys. These dramatic landscapes are a result of the planning areas’ proximity to the San Andreas Fault system. Bighorn sheep, burro deer, desert tortoise and many small upland game species live among the mountains. Vegetation within these wilderness areas is dominated by a creosote scrub community comprised of species such as creosote bush, bursage, Orocopia sage, Orcutt's woody aster, Mecca aster, ironwood, smoke tree, and palo verde.
It is BLM's policy that wilderness management plans be prepared for all wilderness areas on public lands. The management of designated wilderness areas needs to be guided by formal plans such that the objectives of the Wilderness Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-577) can be met. Management plans prescribe the what, where, when, how, and why of proposed management actions.
The Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office is currently preparing a wilderness management plan for the Mecca Hills and Orocopia Mountains Wilderness areas. The proposed plan will provide the preliminary management guidance for BLM regarding decisions affecting these two wilderness areas. These wilderness areas are being addressed in a single plan due to their proximity and similar issues. The proposed plan will serve as the required NEPA documentation and follow the content requirement of an Environmental Assessment (EA).
The objectives of the proposed wilderness management plan are to:
1. Manage BLM wilderness areas in such a manner as to preserve wilderness character, as mandated by the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577).
2. Manage wilderness for the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, education, conservation, and historic use while preserving wilderness character.
3. Effectively manage permitted uses and exceptions under Section 4(c) and 4(d) of the Wilderness Act while preserving wilderness character.
4. Successfully deter unauthorized and prohibited uses as outlined under Section 4(c) and 4(d) of the Wilderness Act in order to preserve wilderness character.
Visioning Meeting and Public Scoping Workshop
Creating a comprehensive Wilderness Management Plan that addresses both current and future needs requires input from the community and visitors to these wilderness areas. During this planning process, the BLM and the public will work together to create a long-range plan that provides management guidance on topics such as recreational trails, special status species, and the desire for more educational programs, just to name a few.
To review, this plan addresses management issues affecting existing wilderness areas. This plan will NOT change the legal boundaries of the wilderness areas or existing laws regarding prohibited uses (e.g. motorized vehicles) as set forth in legislation including the Wilderness Act of 1964, the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, or the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009. Wilderness areas are Congressionally designated, and as such, only Congress has the authority to make changes to wilderness boundaries or management provisions contained in the original legislation.
We invite you to fill out the Visioning Worksheet and mail it to Jennifer Taylor, Outdoor Recreation Planner / Wilderness Coordinator, at the address below:
Bureau of Land Management
Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office
1201 Bird Center Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
You may also send written comments to Jennifer Taylor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The public scoping comment period has been re-opened, and comments will be accepted through December 31st, 2012. Once the draft plan is written, it will be posted to this website for a 30-day public comment period. Tentatively, the date to begin the public comment period is set for late January / early February. (Please refer to the Project Timeline.)
*Update - Due to budget and time constraints, the planning process for the draft Wilderness Management Plan has been postponed. The draft plan/EA will not be available for a 30-day public review until later this year (date is unknown at this time). This information will be updated once a specific timeframe has been determined.
A proposed 9-month timeline for identifying issues, analyzing data, writing and revising the draft plan / EA has been prepared. Tentatively, the date that the draft plan / EA will be opened for a 30-day public review is the final week of January, 2013. This information will be updated when the specific timeframe for public review has been determined.
Plan Mailing List
The Palm Springs-South Coast Office is also creating a mailing list for the Mecca Hills-Orocopia Mountains Wilderness Management Plan. For more information, or to receive a copy of the draft wilderness management plan and EA when it is completed, please contact Jennifer Taylor at 760-833-7117 or by email at email@example.com