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Judge Keeps Garbage Away from Joshua Tree


    Some people will go to any lengths to get rid of their garbage.
    Fortunately, for Joshua Tree National Park, a federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management erred when it approved a land exchange that would have cleared the way for what is being billed as the world's largest garbage dump to go into business next door to Joshua Tree.
    The ruling marks the second time in a week that a judge has come down in support of national parks. Last week a judge in Utah ruled that officials at Canyonlands National Park were within their rights to close a Jeep trail in the park's Needles District to off-road vehicle traffic.
    This week U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin rejected the BLM's land swap, saying in part that the BLM had failed to accurately consider the value of public lands. While the BLM had determined that the 3,942 acres of land involved in the swap was worth only between $79 and $104 per acre, for a total of nearly $410,000, the company that wanted to buy the property was ready to sell it for $41 million.
    Hmmm. Wasn't it the BLM that undervalued federal lands in Utah a few years ago when it proposed a swap with the state of Utah, a swap that fell apart after the inequity was flagged?
    Anyway, in the California case, Judge Timlin also ruled that the BLM had not truly determined whether the land swap, which would have cleared the way for a massive dump surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park to take in 20,000 tons of garbage every day for the next 117 years, was in the public interest.
    Seems like an easy determination, doesn't it?
    And, lastly, the judge held that an environmental impact statement conducted for the project failed to demonstrate the need for the dump, analyze a good range of alternatives, or fully take into consideration the dump's impact on bighorn sheep and the desert ecosystem.
    "This dump was ill-conceived from the beginning," says Howard Gross, the National Parks Conservation Association's California Desert program manager. "It's ludicrous to haul trash 200 miles out into the desert and dump it in the arms of one of America's iconic parks. We are cautiously ecstatic about what the judge's ruling could mean for the long-term protection of Joshua Tree from this threat."
    I wonder if Paul Hoffman would agree?


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