CALIFORNIA DESERT LAND CONSERVANCY

Because we love this land

aka Mojave Desert Land Trust   |   Joshua Tree, CA   |  www.mdlt.org

Mission

The mission of the Mojave Desert Land Trust is to protect the Mojave and Colorado Desert ecosystem and its natural, scenic, and cultural resource values.

Ruling year info

2006

Joint Executive Director

Mrs. Kelly Herbinson

Joint Executive Director

Mr. Cody Hanford

Main address

P.O. Box 1544 29 Palms Hwy

Joshua Tree, CA 92252 USA

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EIN

72-1603033

NTEE code info

Land Resources Conservation (C34)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The California desert environment is “extremely fragile, easily scarred, and slowly healed.” This description, from the 1976 designation of the California Desert Conservation Area, drives home the need for specialized stewardship of this beautiful landscape. Only through land acquisition, dedicated stewardship, and education can we preserve this uniquely biodiverse region for future generations to enjoy. We work across the entire California portion of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts -- 26 million acres -- about 26% of the state. Since 2006, we have secured permanent and lasting protection for 90,000 acres across the California desert. We’ve deepened that conservation mission in recent years with a powerful combination of native plant restoration and seed banking, volunteerism, educational programs for underrepresented populations, and targeted advocacy.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Desert Discovery Field Studies

MDLT strives to provide a diverse group of underserved youth and their families an opportunity to learn about our desert region and its unique eco-habitats. We provide a hands-on curriculum that takes students and their families out on the land, providing them with an experience that they may never have otherwise and that will, potentially, encourage them to become stewards of this land. Activities include but are not limited to: overnight camping with conservation age-relative programming; one-day stewardship/clean-ups; one-day interpretive trail walks learning about the local native plants and wildlife with the corresponding curriculum, i.e.: owl pellets and animal remains review, plant samples from corresponding regions, and leave no trace outdoor ethics. Our strong partnerships with Hispanic Access Foundation, Native American’s Land Conservancy, and Council of Mexican Federations assist in our reaching this diverse community.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Families

A significant part of our programmatic mission is to purchase private parcels of land in order to 1) keep intact or restore wildlife corridors connecting critical habitat between and among national parks, national monuments, and military installations, 2) conserve and protect fragile desert open space, and 3) manage land to promote low-impact recreation where appropriate.

Our land acquisition efforts are driven by scientific studies and data used to identify the most vulnerable and critically impacted land in need of conservation. Land is then purchased on an ongoing basis from willing sellers at fair market value. But buying land is just the first step. To successfully carry out its multi-use land management mission, MDLT employs land specialists and trains 150 volunteer land stewards annually to monitor, clean, and restore the 27,456 acres we own today. Our hardworking volunteers work together to safely install fencing and signage, perform trail work and planting, and lead invasive weed removal projects amongst many other important duties. Growing urbanization and the looming threat of climate change has made adaptive management an imperative, so MDLT is constantly looking for opportunities to fund land acquisition and on-going resource management to protect our beloved Mojave landscape.

Population(s) Served
Adults

We have recently acquired Palisades Ranch, an outstanding 1,647-acre property in Helendale, California that sits along 3.5 miles of the Mojave River. But what makes this property even more unique are the species that depend on it. In fact, it’s one of the Mojave Desert’s most important habitat areas for fish and wildlife. The rich plants and surface water attract 39 federal and state listed special-status wildlife species. There are 76 bird species alone! The more we learned about this wildlife refuge, the more we realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Mojave Desert Land Trust to protect a unique ecosystem. So, we acquired this property in the fall. It’s one of our most significant acquisitions to date, and we want to preserve it for generations to come. We see Palisades becoming a sustainable and resilient oasis in the West Mojave. There are educational opportunities on the property for the high desert community, particularly for the nearby cities of Victorville and Barstow. The ranch lies within a 30-minute drive of over 350,000 residents. Funding will help us restore this wildlife refuge, with specific work like…

Population(s) Served
Adults

MDLT's nursery grows plants for projects throughout the CA desert and in the local community, which restore or enhance wildlife and pollinator habitat. The nursery provides a variety of educational and enriching opportunities for volunteers to learn about plant propagation, cultivation, and maintenance. In addition, the nursery develops propagation protocols for uncommon and difficult species desirable for restoration. The nursery is also currently working on a project to implement best management practices for preventing the introduction of plant pathogens in the nursery and onto restoration sites. This is a serious issue being addressed by native plant restoration nurseries statewide, and MDLT is taking a proactive approach to prevent intro-duction and spread of plant diseases. Funding for this project will support greater species diversity in restoration plantings, increased availability of important pollinator plants, and the production of clean, healthy nursery stock for restoration projects.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Seed Bank has made over 640 collections representing over 128 taxa. To successfully support the mission of the seed bank, staff and volunteers must conduct frequent collection trips throughout MDLT’s vast service area during seed harvesting season to maintain and expand the variety and quantity of seed needed for preservation efforts. Funding will allow us to target species that provide both pollen and nectar for adult pollinators as well as host plants that support larval stages. While we currently only collect on MDLT-owned lands, we intend to expand our reach with Memorandums of Understanding and collecting permits with our landowner partners: BLM, San Bernardino County, and our tribal partner NALC.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Accreditations

Land Trust Alliance Accreditation 2017

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

MDLT strives to help everyone who lives, works, and plays in the California desert to embrace the significance of this magical landscape. We aim to preserve and protect desert lands for future generations to enjoy.
We Purchase privately owned lands in national parks (inholdings), parcels that are important wildlife linkage corridors and buffer areas around conserved areas to preserve as open space for future generations.

Our goals: Ensuring access to the outdoors while conserving the vibrant but fragile desert ecosystem and its natural and cultural resources; expanding appreciation and support for the unique resources of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts through educational programs; increasing public engagement on important issues that could affect conserved desert lands through sound science and advocacy; preserving important habitat for flora and fauna and connectivity within established linkages; maintaining community identity and high quality of life indicators like dark night skies, scenic views and vistas, and the close connection to nature; protecting Joshua Tree National Park by preserving open space adjacent to park boundaries and creating connectivity to other protected lands; and engaging our community in the ongoing stewardship of our local lands.

We have an ambitious strategic plan guiding our work until 2030.

Our priorities are protected lands in the greater Mojave and Colorado Deserts, including Wilderness, National Park units, Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments, as well as the habitat linkages which connect them.
Preserving this connectivity ensures plants and animals can move and adapt in response to climate change, that there will be a source of repopulation after catastrophic events such as fire and creates healthy wildlife populations within protected areas through genetic diversity. MDLT is also focusing on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and National Conservation Lands - public lands with important natural, historical, cultural and archeological sites.

Our vision is to complete a system of interconnected core reserves throughout the California desert. This work includes working with partners in advocating for the designation of additional parks, monuments, and wilderness areas. Where possible, we convey land to federal agencies and continue to acquire and manage conservation lands, stepping in where public agencies can’t.

MDLT’s plant conservation program is focused on developing new ways of propagating and growing plants and producing seed for desert restoration, expanding the number and diversity of seed collections in our seed bank, and educating the public about the value of native plants through our demonstration garden. We will work with partners to develop effective desert restoration techniques and to restore desert ecosystems for the benefit of native plants and wildlife, including the federally threatened desert tortoise.

MDLT’s public engagement and outreach program focuses on reaching all groups within our desert communities to inform, educate, build lasting and supportive constituencies, and to help all ages discover the wonder, recreational opportunities, and restorative qualities of the desert. Major projects include the expansion of our successful Desert Discovery program for children, with a focus on underrepresented communities, and continued partnerships with groups from diverse ethnic and economic groups. We also work with federal agencies to provide educational, recreational, and volunteer opportunities to park visitors, and internships including the pioneering Women in Science Discovering Our Mojave program.

We are one of the leaders in land conservation in the California desert. Our land acquisition efforts are driven by scientific studies and data used to identify the lands most in need of conservation. MDLT works from its Strategic Plan with input from supporters and partners to identify lands that protect wildlife habitat, scenic views, public access, cultural sites, watersheds, and ecological processes. Land is purchased at fair market value and cared for as part of our land monitoring and stewardship program including a corps of inspiring and hardworking volunteers. Every land transaction supports MDLT’s mission and vision.

We take a collaborative approach in our conservation efforts. We believe in forming meaningful and strategic partnerships throughout our service region. This helps us demonstrate the importance of preserving the vibrant but fragile desert ecosystem and its cultural resources while also facilitating outdoor experiences and interactions with nature and the land.

Within our network of supporters, some of the key partners who help us accomplish our mission and our work include the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Defense, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, local governments, water districts, educational institutions, and other conservation organizations.

We also work with desert communities, engaging individuals, and groups to become land stewards and ambassadors for conserved public lands. Developing programs that successfully connect diverse communities and people with their natural surroundings cultivates a personal sense of appreciation, fosters a land stewardship ethic, and inspires support for public lands and conservation efforts.

MDLT has a 15-year history of acquiring conservation land in the California Desert, having completed over 1,000 transactions totaling nearly 90,000 acres. This includes 37,010 acres in national parks, 23,278 acres in wilderness areas, 5,720 acres in national monuments, 15,238 acres in habitat mitigation and conservation easements and 7,015 acres in Morongo Basin wildlife corridors. Once land is purchased, MDLT works to ensure its permanent protection. In many cases this means transferring the land to public ownership, to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management or National Park Service. In other cases, we retain the land permanently, providing for its long-term restoration and management.

Highlights from our most recent year of service before we had to stop in-person events include: 16 clean-up events which resulted in the removal of 10.3 tons of waste from wildlife habitats; 452.3 acres of wildlife habitat restored; 8 wildlife surveys conducted; 114 wildlife linkage signs posted; 650 seed collections added to our seed bank; over 70,000 plants grown for restoration and community use; and 14,400 volunteer hours contributed.

We will continue to acquire in-holdings in protected areas, to preserve wildlife corridors and to restore desert land. Protection of wildlife corridors preserves the desert, and helps maintain healthy animal populations by preventing habitat fragmentation.

We plan to install educational signage in our new Discovery Garden (est. 2020) and raise funds for phase three of the project which will include installing a covered pavilion, benches, and low voltage electricity for pathway lighting and other purposes.

Our seed bank has grown by leaps and bounds in 4 short years, and we have run out of space to store our 650 collections. We are accepting donations to construct a dedicated space. The new seed lab will include workspaces for volunteers, office spaces for staff, and a walk-in cooler for seed storage. There are over 6,000 plant species in California. Our seed bank collection focuses on desert flora which has not been catalogued previously.

MDLT is also making great progress in our native plant nursery. We are proud to be part of a pilot program to implement measures to meet the highest accreditation standards.

Financials

CALIFORNIA DESERT LAND CONSERVANCY
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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CALIFORNIA DESERT LAND CONSERVANCY

Board of directors
as of 02/08/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. John Simpson

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Term: 2022 -

Kelly Herbinson

Mojave Desert Land Trust

John Simpson

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Robyn Helmlinger

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Peter Brooks

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Gwen Barker

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Ron Radziner

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Brad Wilson

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes