Landscape Stewardship Awards - 2009

PLF President Henri Bisson presents the Foundation's Landscape Stewardship Award to Buford Crites of the Friends of the Desert Mountains
PLF Board Member Jim Ruch giving a presentation about the early days of the California Desert Conservation effort.

THE PUBLIC LANDS FOUNDATION hereby presents The Friends of the Desert Mountains with its 2009 Landscape Stewardship Conservation Award.  The Foundation grants this recognition to honor citizens and organizations working to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include, in whole or in part, National Public Lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

For more than 20 years the Friends of the Desert Mountains has been the Coachella Valley’s preeminent nongovernmental organization working to protect biological diversity and preserve open space in the local area primarily through land acquisition, frequently purchasing lands themselves when governmental processes would be too slow to react and the lands could be lost to development, or working in partnership with a variety of government agencies and nongovernmental organizations to enhance funding opportunities.  The Friends has worked to ensure landscapes and their natural resource values are protected.  Recognizing the significant scenic and natural values of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, they were among those leading the charge to establish the Santa Rosa Mountains National Scenic Area, designated on March 31, 1990, by the Secretary of the Interior. The Friends again assumed a leadership role several years later to enhance and expand protection in these mountains, this time culminating in the first congressionally designated National Monument in the National Public Lands ”Landscape Conservation System,” the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument on October 24, 2000.  Since then it has become the mission of the Friends, in addition to acquiring and preserving land in the Coachella Valley and surrounding mountains, to support education, conservation, and research in the National Monument. The Friends currently plays a key role in a grassroots campaign pursuing new legislation to achieve additional conservation objectives in the local area. The Friends list of accomplishments includes:

  • Helping to acquire more than 30,000 acres of local lands for protection to date
  • Securing grants to support environmental education and stewardship programs offered through the National Monument, including the Healthy Initiative for Kids in the Environment (a.k.a. HIKE, which targets local 4th grade students) and the new Junior Trail Guide program.
  • Winning a conservation grant from Southern California Edison in the amount of $250,000 of which 85% directly supported facility development, environmental education, and interpretation in the National Monument.
  • Recruiting for and managing a robust volunteer program to support the National Monument, which has substantially expanded environmental education and interpretive programs for local school groups and visitors.
  • Taking a leadership role in the development and publication of various media products, including the new National Monument brochure, trail map, and naturalist’s field guide.
  • Working closely with the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission in the lands acquisition aspect of the newly-approved Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

The Public Lands Foundation is pleased indeed to present Friends of the Desert Mountains this Citation and Award for invaluable contributions to the stewardship of America’s public landscapes.

George Lea
September 12, 2009