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Overview of the Mojave

Management Challenges

The Mojave Desert encompasses large tracts of publicly owned lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense manage most of these lands. But because ecosystems do not recognize such boundaries, federal land managers work in cooperation with one another, local governments, and private landowners.

Rapid urban expansion--coupled with scarce water resources--creates special management challenges for the entire region. Increased human use of the desert is the direct cause of the majority of resource issues. Livestock grazing, utility corridors, military training, and recreational activities all impact fragile native plants and animals.

In addition, pressure is mounting as cities and counties grow up to adjacent public land boundaries with no room to expand. In some cases, federal lands near cities are being sold or exchanged for more environmentally sensitive lands further from urban areas. For example, Congress is considering legislation that would sell public lands to Clark County, Nevada, for construction of a new airport to serve Las Vegas. The money from this sale could be used to buy environmentally important land elsewhere.

While some see the desert as a barren landscape suitable for garbage dumping, many citizens understand the beauty and fragility of the landscape and seek to restore it. A recent volunteer cleanup of public lands near Barstow, for example, attracted more than 500 people from nearby communities, who collected 5.5 metric tons of trash, including discarded cars and washing machines.

The Mojave Desert attracts millions of tourists each year to such sites as Death Valley, Lake Mead, Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve, and the millions of acres of public lands containing canyons, sand dunes, and dry lakes managed by the BLM. Therefore, managers not only must protect the fragile desert environment, but they also must plan to accommodate an increasing variety of uses and demands for desert lands.

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Rainbow Basin near Barstow may be barren but it is beautiful

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