Working at the Landscape Scale: Lessons from the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Planning Process (2016)

Client Organization: 
Bureau of Land Management
Project Location : 
Sacramento, CaliforniaRoughly 22.5 million acres of federal, state, and private land in the Mojave and Colorado desert regions of southern California.
Summary of Project Idea: 

This project is helping the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) evaluate the six-year planning process for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The DRECP identifies areas appropriate for utility-scale renewable energy development in the California desert while simultaneously providing conservation for sensitive species, habitats, and other resources. Incorporating comments and ideas from dozens of federal, state, local, and nonprofit officials, our group created a series of recommendations for BLM as well as a broader landscape-scale conservation audience on how to improve implementation of future landscape-level, multi-stakeholder conservation planning processes.

As a result of increased understanding of ecosystem dynamics and the cumulative environmental impacts of anthropogenic activity, federal natural resource management agencies are increasingly looking at performing conservation at the landscape-scale. Accordingly, BLM is working to update their land use planning guidelines to encourage greater emphasis on landscape-level planning. Through our research on landscape-scale planning and the DRECP—one of the largest land use plans ever attempted—we generated recommendations that will help the BLM improve the efficiency and effectiveness of future planning processes. More broadly, we hope our recommendations are useful for the wider landscape-level conservation community.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Steve Yaffee
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Anna Bengtson, MS/MUP Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Alyssa Cudmore, MS/MUP Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Brian Fadie, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • David Markowitz, MS Conservation Ecology
Project Status: 
Past Project