DC Favors Joshua Tree National Park, but Leaves Butterfly Hanging

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 swap, trading private land for the public land near the Park necessary to operate the dump.  A lower court rejected the land swap, but the company appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court.  Until the recent victory, Interior supported the company's appeal.  Without Interior's support, the landfill company's petition before the Supreme Court is weakened, although the Court has yet to rule on the matter.

The iconic namesake of Joshua Tree National Park.
Just this past week, however, Washington DC dealt a blow to Mojave Desert conservation issues when it denied endangered species protection for the rare Mount Charleston blue butterfly, which is found in the mountains just west of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Desert biologists believe the species needs Federal protection or it is likely to go extinct.  The Department of Interior ruled that endangered status is warranted for the butterfly, but because of resource constraints it cannot offer protection.  Placed on the waiting list can doom a rare species, and the Obama administration has been less vigilant about endangered species act compared to either the George W. Bush or Clinton administrations.  Twenty-four species have gone extinct while on the list.


  1. No doubt about it, as far as the deserts are concerned, and trust me, it sickens me to say this,the Bush the Younger admministration look like saints, environmentally speaking at least, compared to the Obama crowd.

    In this case the old Texas adage applies to the current administration, as far as the desert environment goes, "they are all hat, and no cattle."


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