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Long-Awaited West Mojave Conservation Plan Released

Barstow, CA (March 24, 2005) - The West Mojave Plan, the largest habitat conservation plan (HCP) ever developed in the United States, encompassing 9.3 million acres in San Bernardino, Kern, Los Angeles, and Inyo counties, has been jointly released, along with the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR), by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the County of San Bernardino, and the City of Barstow.

The HCP and proposed BLM plan amendment provides a comprehensive strategy to conserve and protect more than 100 listed or sensitive wildlife species and their habitats, including the desert tortoise and Mohave ground squirrel. The plan also provides a streamlined program for public agencies and private parties to comply with requirements of the State and Federal Endangered Species Acts. In addition to being a multi-agency HCP, it is also an amendment to the 1980 California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Plan and includes a final EIS/EIR analyzing the impacts of the plan's provisions.

In addition to BLM, San Bernardino County, and Barstow, many other entities cooperated or participated in the plan's development, including three other counties, 10 other cities, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Department of Transportation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, four U.S. military bases, and numerous non-governmental organizations and businesses.

"Completing the long-awaited West Mojave Plan will conclude one of the most collaborative and extensive 12-year planning efforts ever undertaken in southern California," said Linda Hansen, BLM California Desert District Manager. "Implementing the plan will allow us to work with our partners and stakeholders to protect and conserve species and their habitats while providing for the future growth and development of all our desert communities."

County of San Bernardino Land Use Services Director Michael Hays said, "This plan is an unprecedented comprehensive approach to protecting environmental resources while accommodating development of private land over the next 30 years. It is far superior to the current protracted process that has produced only 'piece-meal' conservation to date. We are particularly pleased with the extensive public involvement and stakeholder participation in this plan."

"The West Mojave Plan is a testimony to both the BLM, for its ability to persevere through this arduous process for the past 12 years, as well as the collaborative approach, which melded so many diverse interests and stakeholders into a unifying plan," said Scott Priester, City of Barstow Community Development Director/City Planner. "We believe the plan strikes a good balance between protecting the environment and the sensitive lands while allowing for growth consistent with the city's general plan. We're privileged to have been a participant in this landmark process."

Notice of availability of the West Mojave proposed plan/HCP and final EIS will be published in the Federal Register April 1, 2005. As part of the Federal approval process, all those who participated in the plan development and commented on the draft, issued for public review in June 2003, can protest the plan to BLM's Director. A 30-day public protest period will end May 2, 2005. Protests must be submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Director, Bureau of Land Management (210), Attn: Brenda Williams, P.O. Box 66538, Washington, D.C. 20240 (regular mail) or 1620 L Street, NW, Room 1075, Washington, D.C. 20036 (overnight mail). Procedures for filing a protest are clearly outlined in the front of the document. Subsequent to the BLM's final action, the County of San Bernardino and the City of Barstow will hold noticed public hearings to consider certification of the EIR and adoption of the conservation program.

Announcements of the availability of the document are being provided to agencies and all those who commented on the draft plan/HCP. The document is available online at http://www.ca.blm.gov. Printed or digital copies on compact disk are available upon request at the BLM's California Desert District Office in Moreno Valley (951) 697-5200, Barstow Field Office (760) 252-6000, and Ridgecrest Field Office (760) 385-5400, the San Bernardino County Planning Department, 385 N. Arrowhead, First Floor, San Bernardino, CA, and the City of Barstow Community Development, 220 E. Mountain View Street, Suite A, Barstow, CA.

Reading copies also are available at the following city and county offices and libraries:

San Bernardino County Planning Department, 385 N. Arrowhead, First Floor, San Bernardino, CA;
San Bernardino County Planning Department, 15505 Civic Drive, Victorville, CA;
San Bernardino County Building and Safety, 57407 Twentynine Palms Highway S, Yucca Valley;
San Bernardino County Library, 104 W. Fourth Street, San Bernardino, CA;
San Bernardino County Library, 15011 Circle Drive, Victorville, CA;
San Bernardino County Library, 304 East Buena Vista, Barstow, CA;
San Bernardino County Library, 11744 Barlett, Adelanto, CA;
San Bernardino County Library, 57098 29 Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA;
City of Barstow Community Development, 220 E. Mountain View Street, Suite A, Barstow, CA;
Kern County Planning Department, 2700 "M" Street, Suite 100, Bakersfield, CA;
Tehachapi Library, 450 West "F" Street, Tehachapi, CA;
Mojave Library, 16916 1/2 Highway 14 Space D2, Mojave, CA;
City of Ridgecrest, 100 West California Avenue, Ridgecrest, CA;
City of California City, 21000 Hacienda Boulevard, California City, CA; and
Inyo County Planning Department, 168 N. Edwards Street, Independence, CA.

The West Mojave Plan/HCP is the last of five regional plans amendments to the 1980 CDCA Plan that desert wide will provide comprehensive management not only for the protection and recovery of the desert tortoise and other listed species, but for hundreds of other sensitive plant and animals species to reduce the need for future listings. The West Mojave Plan, in conjunction with the other four plan amendments (Northern and Eastern Colorado Desert, Northern and Eastern Mojave, Coachella Valley, Western Colorado Desert) also completes route designation throughout the California Desert Conservation Area, as required in the 1980 CDCA Plan.

For more information contact Doran Sanchez, BLM External Affairs at (951) 697-5220, Randy Scott, San Bernardino County representative at (909) 387-4147, or Scott Priester, City of Barstow representative at (760) 256-3531.

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