National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Desert Managers Group

Description: In spring, 1994, it became apparent that a hotly contested California Desert Protection Act Bill was finally going to pass and result in major transfers of land from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the National Park Service (NPS) and large wilderness designations. As the largest landowner in the desert, the BLM was engaged in major ecosytem-based planning efforts for their vast public lands. There were major issues/conflicts around grazing, desert tortoise recovery, off road vehicle use, mining, hunting, military overflights, burro and wild horse management, water for wildlife, and development.

After a standoff between BLM and the NPS over the potential transfer of East Mojave Preserve to the NPS for management, NPS and BLM in California decided it was time to move on and begin working together on an orderly transfer and joint planning of adjacent lands on an ecosystem basis. Since the 25 million-acre Mojave Desert included southern Nevada Ecosystem, NPS and BLM managers were included. Field tours, briefings and orientations were held in late summer of 1994. An ambitious Memorandum of Agreement and Strategic Plan were drafted. Liaisons were appointed and the managers of each of the operation units began meeting as the Desert Managers Group (DMG) - district managers and park superintendents met with the Army, Navy, Marines Corp and Air Force -- each of whom had large military bases in the desert. The California Desert Protection Act was enacted in November 1994.

For the 8.5-million acre Northern and Eastern Mojave Ecosystem which included the large expansion of Death Valley National Park (3.5 million acres) and creation of the 1.6-million acre Mojave Preserve, NPS and BLM entered into an agreement to jointly staff and fund a planning team to produce the General Management Plans for the two parks and Resource District Management Plan for the BLM remainder.

In late 1994, a Desert Managers Group was established to include the NPS, BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, California State Parks, and the four military base commands. The DMG began holding bi-monthly meetings in different locations across the Mojave Desert to focus on land management issues of common concern. The emphasis was on building awareness and seeking consensus and looking for opportunities to share facilities and staff expertise and reduce duplication to better serve visitors and manage desert resources.

Geographic area covered: 25 million acres of Mojave Desert from Riverside, CA eastward into Southern Nevada past Las Vegas.

List of Partners and Relationships: Mojave National Park, Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Bureau of Land Management Resource Conservation Districts, U. S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, California Fish and Game, CalTrans, California State Parks, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Edwards Air Force Base, Twenty Nine Palms Marine Corps Base, Fort Irwin Army National Training Base, and China Lake Naval Weapons Station.

Accomplishments to date: Interagency visitor orientation centers were quickly established in the gateway communities. Coordinated and definitive natural and cultural resource inventory mapping. Shared facilities. Elimination of duplicative facilities. The completed management plans better reflect multi-agency and ecosytem-wide perspectives. More coordinated and effective efforts on species management, including Desert Tortoise recovery. Illegal dumps were cleaned up. Habitat restoration projects. A five-year DMG Operations Plan was adopted and annually updated. Evaluation of the effectiveness of DMG led to deactivation of several workgroups and clarified the roles of the DMG managers and coordinators. The Webpage has a link for visitors to plan their trips to the desert on

Key success factors:

  1. Desire and necessity to make the partnership succeed. The partnership was brokered in California by NPS and BLM and sold to headquarters and the Department so there was no going back. Each level wanted it to work.

  2. The knowledge that this was an experiment in inter-governmental cooperation that had interest from the Department of the Interior and the Vice President. Adopted as National Innovation Lab project.
  3. The DMG quickly realized the value of the forum and the working relationships it afforded to work across jurisdictional boundaries.
  4. Select the right personalities for coordinating the group.
  5. Finding common ground between civilian and military missions.
  6. Producing annual accomplishments reports and updates of a five-year plan and making periodic assessments of effectiveness and necessary adjustments.

Frustrations:Certain issues are very difficult, in some cases impossible, to get consensus on, largely due to different agency missions and constituencies. Agency planning functions and staffing profiles and funding levels are substantially different. The NPS-BLM-USFS planning consortium abandoned the integrated team and joint plan and produced separate plans. Managers change over time resulting in some loss of institutional memory, continuity and working relationships. Differences between civilian and military agendas. Complications in transferring and pooling funds.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Think big, but set realistic expectations based on partner staffing, funding and missions.

  2. Realize early successes.
  3. Be objective and see how flexible you can be.
  4. Get to know you partners' turf, operations, issues and agendas onsite. Have shared group experiences.
  5. Liaisons with top level support are essential ingredients.
  6. Leadership is key. Pairing up the right managers and staff is crucial.
  7. Co-locate where possible.
  8. The DMG tends to take on the personality, initiative, and energy of the coordinator(s).
  9. Follow through to achieve and report results.

What would you do differently next time:Be realistic about what you can do together. Recognize differences.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): DMG Agreement and Accomplishments Reports.

For more

Name: Mary Martin
Affiliation: Superintendent, Mojave
Phone/Fax: 760-255-8801

Name: John Hamil
Affiliation: Executive Coordinator, California Desert Managers Project
Phone/Fax: 760-252-6108/760-252-6102

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements__; Facility Management _X_; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation __; Mutual Aid _X_; Fire Management _X_; Planning _X_; Tourism _X_; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Ray Murray Date posted: 8/13/03
Phone: 510-817-1439

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