Mojave Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve


Country United States of America
Region/State California and Nevada
Web Address
Date Founded 1984
Size (hectares) 10,488,556
Distinguishing Features 14 species of amphibians

renewable-energy rich location

International Dark Sky Community

Main Industries (in terms of employment) Renewable energy, agriculture, tourism

Mojave Colorado Deserts


Established in 1984, the Mojave Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve includes Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Santa Rosa Mountains Wildlife Management Area, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The biosphere reserve is located almost entirely within California with a small portion in Nevada and borders Mexico. 

Wind, solar, and geothermal energy is harvested from various parts of the reserve. During the last five years, numerous solar energy projects have been proposed and installed on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administered lands throughout the California desert. The National Park Service (NPS) works as a cooperating agency for these planning processes to help identify areas of high resource conflict—ecologically rich areas, important wildlife movement corridors, habitats rich in biodiversity—in order to help the BLM avoid siting industrial-scale energy projects in areas that would disrupt ecological systems on a regional scale. Transitional areas within the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Reserve support one of the most renewable-energy rich locations in the United States and the world, (San Diego State University Sustainable Energy Center, unpublished data). 

Low levels of night light pollution in regions of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Reserve have led to the town of Borrego Springs, California, the gateway to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park core area, receiving certification by the International Dark-Sky Association to become California’s first and world’s second International Dark Sky Community, providing opportunities for star and galaxy gazing to local residents and national and international tourists through informal and formal tours provided by the local tourist industry. Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks are also certified as International Dark Sky Parks.

The biosphere reserve influences soil and air quality, as well as carbon sequestration in its above and below-ground portions of its deep-rooted desert vegetation, and major wildflower blooms that help maintain local, regional, and migratory populations of pollinators, including insects, birds, and bats. Regulating services occur in both ecosystems, providing wetland, upland, and sensitive resource protection, with a priority to maintain water quantity and quality for farmers within the Coachella and Imperial Agricultural matrices and international cities, including Las Vegas and San Diego. Cultural Services are in the form of recreation, tourism, spiritual, educational, heritage, and aesthetics. Desert tourism in popular hotspots has more than doubled in the past five years, resulting in increased development, water consumption, and recreation pressure.

The biosphere reserve is home to several indigenous tribes. The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe has lived within Death Valley National Park “since time immemorial.” The tribe’s ancestral homeland includes all of the park and areas outside the park under the control of the BLM. While there have been alterations made to their designated territory, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and NPS work together on a variety of resource management issues, including: using fire to control vegetation and to encourage new growth; and clearing and pruning of pinyon, mesquite, and willow. Joshua Tree National Park routinely collaborates with fifteen federally recognized Native American nations and seeks to recruit Native American students into government service positions.  Primary tribal partners within the biosphere include:

  1. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Palm Springs, CA)
  2. Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians (Coachella, CA)
  3. Cabazon Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians (Indio, CA)
  4. Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians (Anza, CA)
  5. Chemehuevi Indian Tribe (Havasu Lake, CA)
  6. Colorado River Indian Tribe (Parker, AZ)
  7. Fort Mojave Indian Tribe (Needles, CA)
  8. Los Coyotes Band of Mission Indians (Warner Springs, CA)
  9. Morongo Band of Mission Indians (Banning, CA)
  10. Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians (Anza, CA)
  11. San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians (Highland, CA)
  12. Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians (Anza, CA)
  13. Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians (San Jacinto, CA)
  14. Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians (Thermal, CA)
  15. Twenty-nine Palms Band of Mission Indians (Coachella, CA)
  16. Timbisha Shoshone (Death Valley, CA)