PALM DESERT, Calif. -

UPDATE: 6:50 p.m.

Wednesday marked the end of a long journey for U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

"That has been a collaborative effort amongst a lot of parties for the last eight years," Jewell said.

Jewell stood with state land officials in Palm Desert Wednesday to announce the completion of the first leg of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).

A plan local environmentalists like Linda Castro with the California Wilderness Coalition say will benefit the Southern California desert in the long run. 

"As our climate is changing, things are changing for the species that live here," Castro said. "They need the ability to move around and to adapt to that climate change."

Federal and state leaders said the first phase of the project will set aside a little more than 10 million acres of desert land to go towards conservation and possible renewable energy. 

"We want to expedite development in the areas that make the most sense, and that's exactly what this plan does," Jewell said. "There's a tremendous amount of solar energy potential in particular, but also wind, energy and geothermal that exist within these development focus areas."   

Jewell said the plan will not affect tribal lands.

She said they estimate, if fully built out, the project could generate up to 27,000 megawatts of power, or enough energy to power more than 4 million homes, by 2040. 

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ORIGINAL STORY: 1:52 p.m.

Federal and state leaders gathered in Palm Desert on Wednesday to announce a new plan that will protect land across the California desert.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and other leaders signed the first phase of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation plan into action. Officials said the first phase of the plan will set aside more than 10 million acres of desert land for conservation, protecting wildlife species and sites for possible renewable energy.

Leaders said the plan as a whole will protect 22.5 million acres of land. They also said the lands would have the potential to produce up to 27,000 megawatts of power if fully built out through 2040.

Zak Dahlheimer was at Wednesday's public land's meeting and he'll have more details about the first phase of the project coming up on KESQ News Channel 3 at 6 p.m. and on CBS Local 2 at 6:30 p.m.

U.S. Department of Interior: Powering Up Renewable Energy on Public Lands