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Showing posts with the label Joshua Tree National Park

Eagle Mountain: Confronting the Industrial Juggernauts

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Please Take Action:  Send an e-mail by May 27, 2016 to " JOTR_Study@NPS.gov " asking the National Park Service to restore the maximum allowable acreage of the Eagle Mountain area to Joshua Tree National Park.

The National Park Service is considering restoring lands removed from what was then Joshua Tree National Monument in the 1950s (it did not become a National Park until 1994), but that restoration may not stop one more giant industrial project from moving forward in the Eagle Mountain area.   The land in question was originally removed from the Monument by Congress to allow for the expansion of the Eagle Mountain Mine, but that mine is no longer in operation.  Although the massive open pit remains, surrounding desert wildlands still provide important habitat for wildlife, including an important desert bighorn sheep corridor.  The Park Service is accepting public comments until May 27, 2016.

Mining, Sanitation, and now Energy Industries Stake Claims on Joshua Tree'…

Celebrating the Desert Protection Act

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Senator Dianne Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) was signed into law 20 years ago on October 31, 1994, establishing new protections for vast stretches of the desert.  The CDPA established 69 new Wilderness areas,  created the Mojave National Preserve, converted Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments into National Parks, and added acreage to both parks.

Watching the sun set in a remote corner of the Mojave forges a connection between me and generations past, and it would be nice to know that future generations will share the same natural heritage.  Witnessing mountain shadows gently stretch across miles of open desert, hearing coyotes howl at twilight as bats flutter by, and being immersed in an infinite blanket of stars overhead are some of the treasured experiences you can have in the desert. 

These experiences are increasingly threatened, however, as cities sprawl outward, new major highways threaten to slice across the landscape, and transmission li…

Oil Pipeline Proposed for Joshua Tree Area

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Questar, a natural gas-focused company with pipelines throughout western states, is evaluating options for a crude oil pipeline through the California desert to refineries in Long Beach, California.  The company would build up to 120 miles of new 16-inch pipeline between Essex and Whitewater, California to connect portions of the existing Questar Southern Trails pipeline, which currently carries natural gas from New Mexico to Essex for California utilities.   The new 120 mile portion would  be routed east of Joshua Tree National Park through Desert Center, or west of the National Park through the Morongo Basin.

The BLM has not yet begun environmental review of the Questar project, so stay tuned.


The Questar pipeline is a separate project from the CalNev pipeline, which will be developed by another company and carry oil from Colton, California to Las Vegas, Nevada.  I wrote about the CalNev pipeline in a previous post. The BLM re-initiated review and is accepting public comments until …

Images of Desert Sunlight Project Don't Lie

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The news website MyDesert.com posted a video tour of First Solar's Desert Sunlight project under construction.  Once the project is finished, nearly 6 square miles of creosote bush scrub habitat for desert tortoises, kit fox, burrowing owls, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard will be destroyed just outside Joshua Tree National Park.  The Sierra Club and other national environmental organizations approved of the project, even though the photovoltaic solar panel technology could have been installed on rooftops or already-disturbed land without destroying wildlands.

Although the First Solar employee interviewed in the video feeds company talking points to the reporter, the images in the background cannot lie.  What was once ecologically intact desert on public lands has been bulldozed and flattened.   Here are some of the screenshots from the MyDesert.com video, with the video embedded below.  The pictures show thousands of steel poles drilled into the ground. The loss of topsoil and nati…

Supreme Court Favors Citizens in Fight Against Trash Dump

The Supreme Court today denied a petition by Kaiser Eagle Mountain Inc. in its quest to operate a landfill near Joshua Tree National Park.  The company filed an appeal to the Supreme Court claiming that the 9th Circuit Court wrongfully ruled in favor of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and concerned citizens Donna and Larry Charpied in 2009.  In that earlier ruling, the 9th Circuit decided that a land swap between the company and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)--which was necessary for the company to operate the landfill--was conducted illegally.  More specifically, the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the BLM broke the National Environmental Policy Act when it constructed the "purpose and needs"statement in its evaluation of the project based on the goals of the company, and not the BLM's own goals.  

Although ruling against the landfill project, the 9th Circuit was also critical of the Charpieds, disagreeing with their claim that BLM's assessment …

DC Favors Joshua Tree National Park, but Leaves Butterfly Hanging

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In late February, the Department of Interior reversed its longstanding position in favor of a landfill just outside of Joshua Tree National Park.  For 24 years the Department of Interior supported legal efforts by a company to establish the world's largest landfill just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, where several square miles of canyons would have been filled with 20,000 tons of garbage each day.  The trash, and 24 hour dumping operations would have brought air pollution and subsidized predators that threaten the protected ecosystems that provide peace to many visitors each year.  Over 1.4 million Americans visited Joshua Tree National Park last year, and they came to see beautiful desert vistas, wildlife, and wildflowers, not trash.

The efforts to reverse Department of Interior's position were spearheaded by two citizens concerned about misguided policy in California's deserts--Donna and Larry Charpied.  At issue is the landfill company's proposed land swa…

Mojave Desert Land Trust Reaches Goal!

Congratulations to the Mojave Desert Land Trust for closing escrow on the Quail Mountain property located adjacent to the Joshua Tree National Park.  The Land Trust's efforts will ensure that this valuable wildlife corridor will maintain a healthy ecosystem in Joshua Tree National Park and surrounding desert habitat.  The Mojave Desert Land Trust's grassroots efforts and community awareness is a valuable part of citizen efforts to preserve beautiful open space in California's deserts for future generations.

You can also read Morongo Bill's write-up on this good news!

Mojave Desert Land Trust Offering Guided Hikes

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is offering the public guided hikes, primarily in Joshua Tree National Park.  The hikes are $10 for MDLT members and $25 for non-members.  The late March hikes (during the predicted wildflower peak season) will probably go fast!  You can get more information at their website.

Mojave Desert Land Trust Persevering Toward Quail Mountain Goal

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is persevering towards its goal of raising enough funds to purchase 955 acres adjacent to the northwestern portion of Joshua Tree National Park, deemed an integral wildlife migration corridor.  The area likely hosts bobcat, desert tortoise, and bighorn sheep.

MDLT's land stewardship and preservation efforts represent true grassroots efforts to conserve some of the most ecologically sensitive and important Mojave Desert habitat.   The MDLT successfully raised funds and purchased land at Nolina Peak, also near Joshua Tree, in 2008.  MDLT's efforts dovetail well with Senator Dianne Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act of 2010, which includes a proposed "Sand to Snow National Monument" that essentially extends preservation from western Joshua Tree National Park into the San Bernardino National Forest.