|The California Desert Protection Act, the most significant piece of park and
wilderness legislation in a decade will help protect many endangered species living in
the California Deserts.
Park and wilderness legislation for the California desert provides new protection for
large areas of the desert. More than four million acres would be established as
wilderness areas under the Bureau of Land Management. Death Valley and Joshua
Tree national monuments have millions of acres set aside as national parks.
The California desert is an intersection of three deserts, the Colorado, the Sonoran,
and the Mojave and occupies the southeastern quarter of the state. It is a harsh
region, where water is scarce and heat is extreme. Yet it is also a place of great
beauty and surprising diversity, stark but not barren. There are jagged mountain
ranges, giant sand dunes, cactus gardens, valleys that fill suddenly and briefly with
wildflowers, red-rock canyons and limestone caverns, oases, hidden springs, and
The balance of life is delicate but holds room for animals such as lizards,
roadrunners, coyote, bobcats, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep, as well as more than
1,000 species of plants.
Little touched for thousands of years, the California desert is now giving way. As the
suburbs of Los Angeles sprawl farther and farther east, the desert is no longer so
remote. Its fragile soil erodes easily under heavy disturbance by off-road vehicles
and grazing livestock, becoming sterile and sending dust airborne for miles. Native
plant life disappears. The desert tortoise, a threatened species considered an
indicator of the health of the desert as a whole and it is in "catastrophic decline" in
Two species who are particularly in need of this sanctuary is the bighorn sheep and
the tortoise. Both are on the endangered list. Even though killing an animal on the
endangered species list is illegal, 40 percent of the dead tortoises found had been
shot, decapitated, or otherwise "vandalized." Protection of these endangered species
is important, otherwise they will become extinct.
Davis, S. Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida: Vol. III. Amphibians and Reptiles.
Scott, C. Endangered and Threatened Animals of Florida and Their Habitats. 2004.