Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

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California fan palm oasis, to the west of the Cathton parcel. (Stephanie M. Stoermer)
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California fan palm oasis, to the west of the Cathton parcel. San Bernardino Mountains are in the background. Photo shows active sand dunes encroaching on the oasis. (Stephanie M. Stoermer)
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Desert dandelion, Asteraceae Family. (Stephanie M. Stoermer)

California Department of Transportation

Coachella Valley Habitat Preservation Initiative

Sand dunes. They're beautiful, and in Southern California's Coachella Valley, they're scarce. Only about 5 percent of the Valley's original sand dune habitat remains.

To help preserve the sand dunes and other sensitive habitats, FHWA, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Riverside County, and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG), agreed on a plan for mitigating anticipated effects of future Interstate-10 interchange projects near Palm Springs.

As part of an interagency draft Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan for the Valley, and on behalf of the Caltrans and FHWA, the CVAG purchased 1,364 acres of a nearly 9,000-acre site called the Cathton property. The site is a critical open space connecting Joshua Tree National Park with the Coachella Valley Preserve. It's also an essential "sand corridor" and wildlife linkage between the Little San Bernardino Mountains and the valley floor. Without CVAG's purchase, sand would no longer be able to travel freely from the mountains to the valley (and the sand dunes). And without the purchase, the Cathton property would have been developed into a "mini-city" with 7,000 homes, 12 golf courses and three hotels.

The acquired property will provide mitigation for I-10 project impacts to sensitive sand dune species. Sand-dependent, federally endangered milkvetch (a flowering plant) and fringe-toed lizards will have a better chance of survival. Fan palm oases in the Coachella Valley will also continue to thrive, thanks to the site's contributions to maintaining water quality.

Another 431 acres will be acquired for the I-10 projects at additional reserves within the Coachella Valley, resulting in close to 1,800 acres of habitat acquired for mitigation. The purchased properties will be managed by CVAG in the short term and ultimately the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission as part of the larger effort to preserve land and corridors under the Habitat Conservation Plan. Acquiring these habitat mitigation parcels for the I-10 interchange projects will add to existing preserve lands. And they'll help preserve habitats in one of the most biologically diverse areas of the country-an area The Nature Conservancy and the Association for Biodiversity Information have identified as one of six regions in the United States ranking in the top tier of conservation priority.

For more information, contact Scott Quinnell at scott_quinnell@dot.ca.gov

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